CORALVILLE — Linzee Barr and her fiance Tonya Stratton were both working at Keystone Place at Forever Green, Barr as a chef, Stratton as dining room manager, when they decided to quit and focus on their own business, ZZnT food truck.
“A food truck has always been my dream,” Barr said. “I’ve never wanted a brick and mortar restaurant, I’ve always wanted a food truck.”
She cited cheaper overhead and the more flexible schedule the food truck allows.
“You can go to where the people are. You don’t have to wait for them to come to you,” she said.
Though they left jobs with good pay and benefits for what they acknowledge is a risky venture, the Coralville couple said they have no regrets.
“It’s a lot of fun. We’re our own bosses,” Stratton said.
They’ve made a point to bring fun into their business model, with playlists aimed at the audiences of the different locations they park their truck, and small touches like a “red carpet” Stratton bought to roll out in front of their walk-up window.
“I call everything a red carpet event,” Stratton said. “We work more hours than we ever worked before. It never stops, but what I like about it is the people. I just try to keep it fun and keep it memorable.”
ZZnT comes from a combination of their names, with “ZZ” for Linzee because that was the nickname her nephew gave her when he was small.
“Our personalities complement each other. I’m the quiet one on the back, she’s the entertainer,” Barr said.
They bought the truck in March 2018, from the owners of the now shuttered food truck business Flip ’N’ Chop, and they started serving in April 2018. They kept service up all through the winter, closing only on a few of the coldest days.
At times they turned the window where people order into a drive up window, so customers wouldn’t have to get out of their cars to order. They also did more private catering during the colder months.
Though the truck has been rolling just over a year, the duo have had a barbecue and catering business for seven years. They started with a tent at public events and things have taken off from there.
Their menu, which they deem, “sophisticated street food” includes items like pork belly tacos, a maple bacon burger, and a mushroom truffle melt.
Their signature sandwich is the Spin Art, featuring spinach artichoke dip on parmesean-crusted sourdough, grilled and topped with tomato and tortilla chips.
“I just started writing stuff down,” Barr said of her process of coming up with the food lineup.
Designing a food truck menu was very different from similar efforts she’s undertaken as a chef at various Iowa City-area restaurants.
The kitchen space is small, and food needs to be ready to serve quickly. They rotate their menu by location, taking note of what different crowds order the most.
Barr said she gets her love of food from her father, Maurice Bauer.
“My inspiration comes from him,” she said. “It’s an art. At the end of an event, when you pull away, it’s rewarding. When people are full, I’m happy.”
If You Go
• What: ZZnT food truck
• When and where: Follow the truck’s Facebook page for location updates. Regular stops include the lunch hours outside UI Dental College, 801 Newton Rd., Iowa City, on Tuesdays, the parking lot of the College Board, 1101 Fifth St., Coralville, on Wednesdays and Science Thursdays outside the UI Carver College of Medicine, 1213 Merf, Iowa City.
• Details: (319) 400-5206, facebook.com/ZZnTfoodtruck