By Alyssa Edes | Boston Globe
Roxy’s Grilled Cheese trucks have logged many miles and melted a lot of cheese over the past couple of years, making them two of most popular mobile restaurants in Boston. Now, owner James DiSabatino wants to expand the business by staying put; he is planning to open a brick-and-mortar version of Roxy’s in September, following the lead of some other local food truck companies.
“It’ll be so great to have something that doesn’t break down on you,” DiSabatino said. “Something where you can put the key in the door, unlock it, and open.”
The new Roxy’s will be located at 485 Cambridge St. in Allston’s Union Square, an area that is already home to restaurants such as Lone Star, Deep Ellum, and Grasshopper. DiSabatino, 25, said he plans to double Roxy’s staff by adding about 20 employees.
“The whole purpose is for this place to act as our truck commissary and our brick-and-mortar spot at the same time,” he said. “The two will run out of the same space.”
DiSabatino said he expects the restaurant’s menu offerings to be “in the same vein” as what’s offered on his food trucks, including Green Muenster Melt: muenster cheese, homemade guacamole, and applewood bacon.
“This [restaurant] literally gives us more room to be creative, more fun, and more consistent all at the same time,” he said. “It will also be a bit more predictable, and I could really use that right now.”
Roxy’s will become the latest in a growing line of nomadic restaurants in the Boston area that have opened — or plan to open — permanent locations.
Clover Food Lab started as a single truck at MIT in 2008 and has grown to seven trucks in Boston, Cambridge, and Burlington.
Last year, it added two restaurants, both in Cambridge, and expects to open three or four more this year, including two in the next month — in Burlington and Brookline Village.
“The original idea behind the truck was to use it as a test ground to prototype a menu for a brick-and-mortar restaurant,” said Lucia Jazayeri, communications director for Clover, which features fresh, simply prepared foods.
In the beginning, Jazayeri said, Clover expected to operate out of a truck for only six weeks before moving to a permanent location. But when the truck stopped running, customers clamored for it to return.
“We never thought the trucks would be the thing,” she said. “We were always focused on restaurants and really still are, but trucks are a good way to test a menu because you have the chance to get to know customers and experiment, without the large overhead of a restaurant.”
Bon Me, a Vietnamese food truck, also opened a restaurant of the same name in Cambridge’s Kendall Square earlier this year, and the Chinese-American truck Mei Mei Street Kitchen plans to open a restaurant in late June near Boston University.
“Food trucks are the perfect incubator for food-service professionals to move their business along,” said Ron Sarni, the president and founder of Boston Food Truck Alliance, a trade organization.
“The restaurant industry is very high risk. Most don’t make it, and this is a solid way for people to have proof-of-concept and figure out what they need to do in a brick-and-mortar.”
Sarni said food trucks are also a good way for restaurants to increase brand recognition, which is why other local establishments such as Area Four in Cambridge or Paris Creperie in Brookline have launched food trucks based on their well-established restaurants.
“It’s more beneficial for a brick-and-mortar to launch a food truck than vice versa, just because it’s such a great bang for your buck in branding,” he said.
“This is not a trend; this is the evolution of the restaurant business.”
DiSabatino said he realizes part of Roxy’s attraction is the way the food is served, from a vehicle parked on a street. Taking that out of the equation, he said, is a risk.
“It’ll be a challenge to take the brand and experience and convert it to brick-and-mortar experience,” he said. “But we haven’t reached our potential brandwise or aesthetically yet, and I think it could finally come into its own here. I have a good feeling about it.”