College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Visions Across America: Lisa and Keith Allen

Written by Carole Gieseke – Chief Communications Officer, Iowa State University Alumni Association

Photography by Jim Heemstra

173f0099You can’t miss Lizzie’s Lunchbox. The hot-pink food truck is a bright burst of color parked between a video store and a carwash in northwest Austin, Texas.

Lizzie’s belongs to Iowa State alumni Lisa (’86 business administration) and Keith (’84 computer engineering) Allen. Keith is a lead member of the AT&T technology staff, and Lisa was a technical writer when she decided to join the Austin food-truck movement.

“Food trucks are a huge trend in Austin,” Lisa (a.k.a. “Lizzie”) said, “and it continues to grow.”

Lizzie’s Lunchbox specializes in “Tex-Med,” a healthy combination of Texas- and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine: pita wraps, hummus, kabobs, sandwiches, salads, soups, and desserts.

“We always wanted to own our own business,” Lisa said. “I was looking for a niche, and sitting at a desk all day is not my thing.”

Lisa and Keith embarked on the adventure together, starting with buying an old tool truck in Dallas, with plans for a do-it-yourself renovation.

“This was July 2010, the middle of a scorching Texas summer, and on the drive back from Dallas the engine blew,” Lisa said. “It was then we got our first reality check about what kind of adventure we were truly on. Keith and a friend rebuilt the engine on weekends, then Keith gutted the truck, designed and executed the layout, including plumbing, electric, and gas, and today I have the finest gourmet restaurant on wheels around!”

Lizzie’s is open six days a week, serving lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Lisa does most of the cooking herself in her ultra-efficient kitchen.

The former Iowans (the Allens both grew up near Oskaloosa) moved to Austin in 1995.

“We love it here,” Lisa said. “We can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Check out Lizzie’s website. It makes my mouth water!

The story was written as part of the ISU Alumni Association’s 3-year VISIONS Across America project and first appeared here.