I craved comfort. As I turned the corner off Broadway in downtown Billings, kitty corner from the Northern Hotel, the wind pierced into my core. I pulled my coat closer and continued onto First Avenue North toward Rockets Gourmet Wraps & Sodas.
Once through the door into this popular lunch place, owned for nearly 20 years by Brian and Gala Thompson, I warmed. Sun shined bright through the panel of floor to ceiling windows. The light was welcoming, but even more, made reading the menu written with pastel-colored chalk on a large blackboard above the counter easier. Choices on the menu span the globe.
“We wanted to do something that was fun, creative and energetic. Wraps are a good application of that theory,” said Brian Thompson.
The Thompsons wanted to follow the concept of a sandwich shop, but without the limitation of bread. By choosing tortillas as the ingredients vehicle, he said, “all rules are off. You can do anything that you want.”
When it first opened, the restaurant was called Rocket Burritos until it incorporated a couple of years later. It later dropped the “burrito” moniker, since it created some confusion. People thought it was a Mexican restaurant, when in reality, the menu includes many options like American BLTs and Santa Fes, and flavors like barbecue and Asian green curry, ginger and teriyaki, plus Mexican tomatillo wraps. Nontraditional combinations include the Cajun Alfredo Wrap filled with spiral noodles in a house-made Italian-inspired cream sauce elevated with creole spices.
According to Brian Thompson, the Bayou Wrap made with andouille sausage, roasted chicken and bell peppers in a spicy red sauce with red beans and rice is the most popular. Instead I chose my constant go-to.
My intentions were to order something different, but I consistently return to the Green Curry Wrap, which encases my childhood carbohydrate comforts. (For those non-carb fans, all wraps can be made sans the wrap into salads or with a gluten-free tortilla.) Wrap choices included chipotle, garlic herb, flour, wheat, spinach, cheddar and gluten-free tortillas. I selected spinach. The wrap comes with house-made green curry sauce with sweet peppers and roasted chicken over a bed of rice topped with pineapple. I substituted the chicken with black beans and always opt for brown rice.
Brian Thompson jokingly said his technique of securing the wrap with foil should be patented. The manner in which the tortilla holds the ingredients make for convenient and clean eating. He cautioned his customers to not remove the foil.
“It can be a recipe for disaster,” he said. “You keep the wrap in the foil, pulling it back bit by bit.”
House-made sodas can be ordered by the glass or in a growler consist of Black Cherry, Root Beer and Ginger Ale. Brian Thompson proudly bragged of the dessert offerings.
“My wife is a fantastic baker and that’s where she can express some of her creativity,” he said.
Her expressions come in the form of cookies and tarts made from scratch — Billings best chocolate chip, snickerdoodles and King Kong with butterscotch, M&M's, chocolate, oatmeal and peanut butter. In warmer months, slices of Key Lime pie might appear.
The laid-back space vibrates with cosmic funk, as plywood-lined walls were anchored with tables, bench seating and a few booths. Concentric circle metal chandeliers hang from the ceiling integrating the space theme along with a metal wall backing the blackboards. A plumbing pipe fashioned into a rocket acts as the welcome mascot near the ordering counter.
For me, Rockets serves up my idea of comfort, good food all wrapped up in one package.
Makes about 6 cups
This is the dressing that goes into the Ginger Wrap, which includes steamed rice, chicken, chow mein noodles, cucumbers, spinach, red bell peppers and carrots.
1/2 cup minced ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup honey
4 cups mayonnaise
Add first four ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Then add honey and mayonnaise and blend until smooth. Store in a container and keep in refrigerator.