Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese is a quintessential food truck success story. It was started by an entrepreneurial spirit, James DiSabitino, who started the food truck under a food cart licence in 2011. He worked five days a week with three hours of sleep each night (usually spent in his car to cut down on the commute) in order to get Roxy’s Grilled Cheese off the ground. Now, the local franchise has been featured on Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, boasts 5 trucks in its fleet and one fixed location with plans in place for further expansion.
The rapidity of their rise to local fame is no surprise to anyone who has tried one of their perfectly browned grilled cheeses. They have a variety of offerings for the traditional to the adventurous and even a vegan option for those of us with dairy allergies (Gabrielle was thrilled!) or alternative diets. If melty, crusty sandwiches aren’t your style (….?!) then the truffled French fries, poutine or burger selections are equally fantastic.
We had to know more about this delicious enterprise and had the fortune of interviewing Nicole Losada, the ‘truck boss’ at Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese and all round expert on the franchise.
What is the grilled cheese of your childhood and which Roxy’s grilled cheese is your current favorite?
After joining the Roxy’s team I was very skeptical about the Green Muenster. Something about guacamole on a grilled cheese sounded wrong to me, but everyone swore by it so I finally gave it a try and I fell in love and now it’s my favorite!
What is in the vegan version offered at the Allston location?
At Allston we can do vegan grilled cheese. We use Daiya cheese which is a tapioca-based cheese product and we oil our bread instead of using mayo. You can then choose from any of our 5 option including just tomato, one with guacamole and caramelized onion, one with buffalo tofu and much more.
Have you experimented with using different breads (i.e. rye, whole wheat) instead of just the light sourdough? Have you considered starting your own bread program?
For special events we have tried different bread flavor profiles, but for our grilled cheese, the light sourdough compliments it perfectly. I don’t see us every starting our own bread program because we have such a good relationship with Iggy’s Bread and we love supporting a local company.
What is your favorite beer and grilled cheese combination?
As far as beer and grilled cheese, you honestly can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. But I am in love with our shandys! A gansett and some of our housemade lemonade is the perfect summer pairing to a classic grilled cheese!
How does your permanent storefront differ from the food truck model? What are the benefits of having the fixed location and what do you miss about being a food truck only restaurant?
We have a lot more freedom with the brick and mortar with out any of the space limitations that come on the truck. For example, we could never have offered burgers or vegan grilled cheeses if we were just a truck (or beer for that matter!) It also gives customers more of a chance to customize their own grilled cheese whereas on the truck, the sandwiches are preassembled in the morning and there are few changes we can make to the menu. Honestly, there’s nothing I really miss about being just food trucks. It’s nice to be able to make money out of our kitchen space instead of having to pay a commissary and make nothing off of it.
How does Boston culture influence your business model and menu?
Being in Allston has affected our business a lot I think. It definitely forced us to get creative and come up with our vegan menu. It also reflects a lot in our company. We have a very young, musical, “badass” company culture that I think fits right in with Allston and Boston. It’s such a young city and we like to think we are too. We also have our Green Muenster which is of course a reference to a certain giant green wall at Fenway Park.
You were the pioneering food truck in Boston; do younger truck operations come to you for mentorship?
We definitely have a lot of people asking for our advice, whether it be with what spots work best, or what events around the city are worth doing. A lot of people have come up to me from other cities too saying they’re thinking of opening a such-and-such truck there and what advice I have for them.
Where do you source your ingredients, in particular your cheeses?
We try to stay local as much as we can. We use Cabot cheddar from Vermont and we made the switch to North Country bacon (made at a farm right up in New Hampshire) last summer. And of course our bread is from Iggy’s, based right out of Cambridge.
What are the three songs that you play at Roxy’s that summarize the brand for you?
Thinking of specific songs is hard because everyone has such a unique taste in music and the majority are musicians themselves with their own bands. I don’t think you could enjoy a meal in the restaurant though without hearing some of The Clash, the Ramones or even some AC*DC. We’re young but we like to stick to the classics and can be a little hardcore.
Roxy’s Grilled Cheese is now a huge success in Boston, do you have plans to expand beyond the city?
We actually already have plans to open a restaurant in the suburbs. The location is still a secret, but by the end of this summer you’ll already be able to grab a Green Muenster and Truffle Fries outside of Boston.