SPRING HILL — While Nature Coast transplants express delight at the abundance of independent restaurants they find locally, they often lament the lack of their former favorites.
The Shannon and Michael Stram family, 17 years out of Denver, long were dismayed by the absence of their ubiquitous Mexican night-out grill spots, Chipotle and Qdoba.
To fuel her family's demanding taste buds, Shannon, 49, studiously recreated the Southwestern fare in her own kitchen, adjusting and tweaking recipes to please individual palates. Now the family has taken the menu public with the Sept. 14 opening of Wrap's Mexican Grille along busy Commercial Way
The serving line is becoming similarly well traveled. In the first week, the kitchen wrapped 2,000 burritos. By week 2, servers were recognizing regular customers.
"What we were making at home, that's what we decided to do here," Shannon said, taking a brief break from tending the grill.
Burritos, tacos and salads, wrapped or unwrapped, anchor the menu.
At the head of a make-it-your-way, fast-fare serving line, daughter and manager Katy Strum, 21, stands ready with the wraps, three warm corn tortillas for a taco order or a 12-inch warm flour tortilla for a burrito. For the unwrapped, a generously sized salad bowl is at hand.
Diners choose a hot foundation: steak, shredded beef, carnita chopped pork, chicken or a veggie mix. They then can add selections of cilantro rice, black or pinto beans; mild, medium or hot salsa; shredded or queso (spicy and melted) cheese; sour cream; shredded lettuce; many condiments and guacamole or avo-cream.
The latter is one of Shannon's tweaked recipes concocted when her kids as youngsters disdained onion bits and jalapeno chop. Avo-cream smoothly blends mashed avocado, sour cream, chopped cilantro and lime juice.
Forking into a chicken bowl on a recent afternoon, diner Nicole Thompson of Holiday liked the avo-cream as well as "more choices" than other fast-Mex restaurants offer. She chose the bowl over a wrap "because I probably won't eat it all, and this comes with a lid."
Her dining partner, John Galloway of Lutz, said it was his second visit in a week from the nearby Pasco-Hernando State College Spring Hill campus.
"The price point is a little better than what I've seen," Galloway said, "and the food is pretty good."
Galloway had picked up a bottle of liquid hot sauce from a condiment counter to spice up his chicken bowl.
Line ingredients are imbibed with limited spice heat, Shannon said, "because we get a lot of children." Low sodium is standard. Enhancers of both additives are offered.
"Everything's fresh," Shannon emphasized, noting that the restaurant gets deliveries of meat and produce daily.
"And fresh made very day," she added. "Everything moves so quickly. Meat is grilled every 15 minutes. Nothing sits more than 30 minutes."
The menu also includes several Hispanic appetizers and snacks, as well as a kids meal.
Shannon, whose maiden name is Cusumano, admits to borrowing from Italian reserves for desserts. The cannoli taco shapes a flaky tortilla into a roll and fills it with traditional Italian cream. The fiesta cookie, two days in the making, layers apricot and raspberry preserves between slices of almond cake and ladles on a chocolate blanket.
Overall, the restaurant's profile is a decidedly fresh and artistic uptick from the building's original fast-food stop. A hand-painted Southwestern stylized sun blazes on the structure's Aztec red front.
As diner Thompson noted, "The people are really friendly, too. They ask if you want more. That's pretty cool."
Contact Beth Gray at email@example.com.