James DiSabatino, co-owner of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese food truck and restaurant, had no promising job prospects at the end of his career at Emerson College in Boston. Facing the classic post-grad dilemma, DiSabatino found solace in an old hot dog truck that would eventually host the beginnings of Roxy’s.
“I thought it would be fun to start a food truck,” he said. “It’s really kind of that easy.”
Investing almost all of his income into the old hot dog truck, DiSabatino set out to make untraditional grilled cheese sandwiches. His grilled cheese-on-wheels setup, which first made it way to Cleveland Circle in 2011, has been on the streets of Boston ever since. The choice of serving these grilled wonders through a food truck window, however, comes with potential setbacks.
“It can rain and a restaurant’s business might go down 20 or 30 percent, but if it rains out or snows your business might go down eighty or ninety percent in a food truck,” DiSabatino said. “You’re also driving an old, beat-up truck that you’re putting a lot of equipment in with a lot of weight, so we’re really running them ragged.”
At first, the Cleveland Circle location attracted largely a college crowd, mostly Boston College students. Then a second Roxy’s truck was added into the mix, and a published schedule became available for locations across the Boston area.
Following the immense success of the food truck, DiSabatino drew up expansion plans to a more permanent location in Allston. The brick-and-mortar restaurant offers a casual, order-at-the-counter environment.
“We kind of seem like a fast food place, but we’re really not,” DiSabatino said. “You come up and you order at the counter, you know, and it has the feel of a fast food place. I love not having a waiter like I did on the truck.”
The intimate environment at Roxy’s Grilled Cheese diner is complemented with hot sandwiches and burgers—the latter not being featured on Roxy’s initial food truck menu. Along with the relaxing atmosphere in Allston, Roxy’s is seeing a sharp increase in business. DiSabatino can final draw in the sit-down crowd, and is attracting a strong base from Boston University there.
“We just really liked Allston as a neighborhood,” DiSabatino said. “It just seemed like the right fit because it has a very, you know, Allston’s a very do-it-yourself place. We thought that coming from a food truck and basically building a restaurant on our own represented us in the best possible way.”
A wider drink selection, including a list of fifteen craft beers, is also available at Roxy’s restaurant.
“No one’s really doing this with food made from scratch,” DiSabatino said. “And we had the opportunity to use really high-quality meat for burgers, let’s keep doing the same grilled cheese we’ve done for years, let’s serve craft beers.”
Despite the popularity of the chain’s burgers, the grilled cheese is still star of the show. Roxy’s Green Muenster, which was recently ranked one of the best grilled cheeses in the country by Food & Wine, is carefully crafted as its pun of a title—take a look under the first slice of bread and you will find applewood smoked bacon, guacamole, and bread that has been toasted with mayonnaise on the outside. On the beef side of things, the Justin Burger stands out, with Grillo’s pickles, pimento cheese, and caramelized onions.
“We have some other vehicles, and we’re going to open more restaurants,” DiSabatino said. “We’re looking at a couple places for next year, and we have a couple non-food trucks, and non-restaurants that we’ll be going to.”
Featured Image courtesy of Roxy’s Grilled Cheese