Some people’s idea of dining in Allston is limited to slimy pizza purchased at 2:30 in the morning. Of course, those people are missing out. Azama Grill, Grasshopper and a plethora of other joints provide internationally-minded eaters with plenty of options for face stuffage.
All that said, until recently, Allstonians desperately craving a gourmet grilled cheese melt have had to either prepare it themselves, find a Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese truck, or fall back on the next-closest option – the aforementioned crummy pizza.
But no longer. After several delays, Roxy’s first bona fide storefront has finally appeared at 485 Cambridge St., making it one of a handful of Boston food trucks to go brick and mortar.
“We want to take this opportunity to use it as an experimental kitchen,” says founder James DiSabatino. “I kind of think backwards. As most restaurants grow and potentially become chains or whatever, it seems inevitable that the food quality decreases. I’m looking at it the other way. I’m looking at our growth as an opportunity to get better, and that’s why Allston is perfect.”
The Revere native hopes to open more quick-serve restaurants down the line. For now, he figures Allston’s young population, with its innate eagerness to try new things, could be pretty receptive of offbeat cheese melts.
But the Roxy’s story doesn’t begin with that brick and mortar store. After realizing he hated going on job interviews, DiSabatino put his Emerson degrees in marketing and entrepreneurial studies to use by combining Europe’s rich varieties of bread and cheese, a classic American entree and a punked-out spin on Wendy’s enduring emblem. Without the resources to start a typical restaurant in 2011, he had to gamble on a food truck — a relatively unusual business model at the time. Luckily, street food got trendy.
“To create a culture that thrives, you have to encourage competition, or encourage peers,” he says. “Would we be as successful if there weren’t as many trucks as there are now? Probably not. I think more people became exposed to street food, and that helped our success.”
In addition to five melts typically available at the two trucks, DiSabatino tells us to expect a few new idiosyncratic lunchy munchies on the shop’s menu. No one’s dismissing the possibility that menu options aside from grilled cheese could come to fruition. But then again, there may not be a definite answer to the question – “What is, and what is not a grilled cheese?”
“I think putting more than three [additional] ingredients in does it,” DiSabatino explains. “We try to keep it to cheese and a maximum of two other ingredients at a time. But yeah, I mean, there’s the whole ideological philosophy of, ‘Is it a grilled cheese when it has blank, or does it become just a sandwich at that point?’”