East meets West meets Continental at Wrap Express, the latest addition to the cluster of quick eateries across from Glendale City College. The name implies fast food, but the culinary output is actually more sophisticated. The prices, while not rock bottom, are within a student’s budget and the portions, if you choose wisely, will keep you full through that 3-hour bio lab.
Owner Ruben Zograbyan was born in Armenia and honed his restaurant management skills in Switzerland, France and Russia. His current labor of love, Wrap Express, combines Middle Eastern flavors (such as shawarma and lula ) with American sensibilities (as in the gyro burger and fries) and European panache (as in sweet crepes and Belgian waffles).
It will be interesting to see which slice of the international pie will prevail with the students. My guess is that it will be the crepes, hearty slices of banana tucked inside each pancake and then slathered with just the right amount of cocoa-hazelnut Nutella spread. It’s folded over and topped with whipped cream and burnt-sugar sauce. It’s heavenly and probably meant to be shared with a friend.
The savory crepes have the same sweet, eggy Parisian pancake, but with sausage or ham and cheese inside ($7.65). They’re gooey and delicious, but on the heavy side. If you need to keep your head clear before an exam, the breakfast veggie wrap is a better idea. Grilled vegetables and scrambled eggs are wrapped in a large pita. The whole thing has an enticing roasted aroma, and is a good deal at $3.95.
The regular-sized beef and chicken wraps are around the same price ($3.95-$4.95), but are not as substantial. For a few dollars more, you can add curly seasoned fries and a drink, or get a large wrap ($6.95-$7.95). They offer rotisserie chicken, as well as shawarma, gyro and kebab meats. They’re wrapped in pita or lavash with cabbage slaw, onion, tomato and a homemade sauce. The beef shish kebab wrap we tried was fine, but not overly impressive.
The gyro burger ($4.95), however, is an experiment gone bad. Sliced gyro beef is topped with lettuce, tomato and far too much yellow mustard. The shawarma plate ($9.95), on the other hand, is great. I got mine with brown rice instead of French fries. It was a nice earthy complement to the chopped Greek salad, piles of shredded chicken and dollop of garlic sauce. It’s not the most authentic shawarma, but right for this plate.
The black-and-red design of the place is bold and modern, the outdoor tables are nice on a warm day and the visible kitchen is well stocked. There are two huge crepe griddles, two rotating shawarma skewers, a large chicken rotisserie oven, a grill, a vegetable bar and probably more that I couldn’t see. I could see, though, that they take time to create each plate with care. Some might say too much time. At an average of 15 minutes per order, I don’t know how they’ll get students in and out between classes.
Luckily, wraps are meant to be taken on the go.
What: Wrap Express
Where: 1525 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale
When: Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Prices: Wraps, sandwiches & plates $3.95-$9.25; Crepes $6.95-$7.95; Sides & salads $1.95-$4.95
Contact: (818) 396-4200; www.wrapexpress.com