Gilbert Macapagal was working as a corporate chef at Cerner Corp. when he started making grilled burrito-style wraps filled with unexpected ingredients such as curried chicken, hummus and made-from-scratch teriyaki sauce.
The “California wraps,” as Macapagal called them, were inspired by the Mexican burritos he loved to eat while living near the beach in San Diego. They were a big hit with Cerner employees, who requested them week after week.
The success of the wraps inspired Macapagal to pursue his dream of owning a business.
In 2004, he opened Longboards Wraps & Bowls at 6269 N. Oak Trafficway in Kansas City, North. The casual cafe had the laid-back feel of a seaside shack, with surfboards on the walls and a short menu of 10 wraps and six salad and noodle bowls made with a melting pot of international flavors. The shop attracted waves of loyal customers, who started asking for more locations.
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In 2012, Macapagal teamed up with a longtime family friend, John Bailey, to open a second Longboards at 1173 W. Kansas St. in Liberty. Two years later, they opened a third location at 5415 Johnson Drive in Mission.
“Mission definitely has a community feel,” says Bailey, who has a business background. “We wanted somewhere where we could see families walking down the sidewalk. We wanted to be next to the barbershop and the hardware store.”
The Mission location is a beachy hangout in landlocked Kansas: The sunny space has walls covered in citrus colors (lime, lemon, orange) and surfboards painted with American flags. On a recent Monday afternoon, the shop’s reggae and Hawaiian music soundtrack put off a vacation vibe.
Longboards’ menu has grown substantially since 2004. I counted 36 wraps divided into five categories: cold deli-style wraps, grilled burrito-style wraps, flat quesadilla-style wraps, small wraps for kids and oversized “OG” wraps for bigger appetites. Longboards also serves salad bowls and Vietnamese-style hot noodle bowls that top rice noodles with vegetables, hard-boiled egg, lettuce and chicken or steak.
I ordered a customer favorite, Cabo Chicken ($6.59). The hefty burrito-style wrap is stuffed with shredded chicken, guacamole, pepperjack cheese, rice and house-made chipotle ranch dressing. The wrap was made to order and swaddled in foil — under the wrapping, the soft and stretchy tortilla was branded with black grill marks. Inside, hot melted cheese mingled with cool guacamole and fresh bits of pico de gallo.
I also stole a few bites of my mom’s Chicken Salsa Caesar ($6.39), a grilled flat wrap made with chicken, bacon, mozzarella cheese, olives, pico de gallo, lettuce and Parmesan sauce, and my brother’s Wow! Kung Pao ($6.59), a grilled wrap that mixes chicken with peanuts, pepperjack, vegetables, rice, Sriracha and Longboards’ spicy Chinese sauce.
Most of the wraps started as weekly specials invented by Macapagal or other employees. The most-requested specials earn a spot on the big board above the counter.
“So basically, our customers built this menu,” Macapagal says.
One of Macapagal’s craziest creations is the Sushi Wrap ($11.49), an oversized burrito stuffed with imitation crab, shrimp, cucumber, guacamole, rice, wasabi mayo and nori, the seaweed sheets used to wrap sushi rolls. Lately he’s been experimenting with wraps stuffed with macaroni and cheese, lobster and garlic croutons.
Next time I go to Longboards, I’m ordering the Hawaiian Sliders ($11.49) — six grilled King Hawaiian rolls filled with imitation crab, pork, chicken, mozzarella and pepperjack cheese.
“Ask for two sauces on the side, Thai peanut and chipotle ranch,” Macapagal says.
Many Longboards customers have come up with their own recipes for wraps, and the shop’s employees will accommodate special requests or lend suggestions.
The owners say almost all of their employees are friends, family members or customers who asked for a job. When I left Longboards, the outgoing employee who asked how my day was going and suggested a Cabo Chicken wrap flashed me a smile and a “hang loose” hand sign. The gesture, made by extending the thumb and pinkie and rotating the hand back and forth, is used to convey the friendly “aloha spirit” in Hawaii.
That’s the kind of spirit Macapagal envisioned when he opened Longboards 11 years ago.
“It’s like a seaside shack you see in Hawaii when you’re on your rental bike,” he says. “I want to surprise people, come up with things they don’t expect. That’s what’s fun about it.”
Enterprise reporter Sarah Gish writes about Johnson County restaurants every second and fourth week of the month. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sarah_gish.
Longboards Wraps & Bowls
Location: 5415 Johnson Drive in Mission
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards: Yes
Parking: Free lot
Don’t miss: The Cabo Chicken wrap ($6.59), a grilled burrito-style wrap stuffed with chicken, guacamole, pepperjack cheese, pico de gallo, rice and chipotle ranch sauce.
Vegetarian: Try the Hummus and Veggies wrap ($5.79), a quesadilla-style flat wrap with hummus, vegetables, olives, pico de gallo, rice and Parmesan sauce, or the Tofu and Veggies noodle bowl ($7.50) without chicken or steak.