(Published on - 8/22/2016 7:37:50 PM)
Joy Bus Diner has taken over a former Subway shop at 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard in Phoenix. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, with all profits going to the Joy Bus foundation.
For the past five years, Jennifer Caraway has been driving her Joy Bus, a non-profit, food-delivery truck that brings free meals to patients struggling through cancer and other debilitating illnesses.
Now, people are able to come to her at Joy Bus Diner. It also functions as a kitchen commissary for Caraway and her two dozen volunteers to make meals for homebound patients.
“It is called a social hybrid entrepreneurship,” Caraway said. “The diner exists solely for operating our free programs, with 100% of the proceeds going towards our mission. We have delivered upwards of 2,500 meals to date and with our very own kitchen now, we should be able to quadruple those numbers.”
But banish all thoughts of utilitarian hospital food. Caraway has put together a menu supported by premium purveyors including Tender Belly pork, Hickmans Family Farms’ cage-free eggs, Shamrock Food’s milk, grass-fed beef and Tracy Dempsey Originals bacon brittle. Produce is donated by Crooked Sky Farms of Phoenix, fish by Santa Monica Seafood, and poultry by Red Bird Farms Co. of Colorado.
The Menu, the Mission:
For breakfast, there are plates like chicken and waffles with pure maple syrup ($10); handmade butter biscuits smothered in sausage gravy ($6); chilaquiles ($8); eggs Benedict with steak and roasted chiles ($12); and poppy seed pancakes stuffed with fluffy lemon curd alongside fruit and sausage or Tender Belly bacon ($9).
At lunch, the kitchen sends out dishes like a Cobb salad ($9); classic Nicoise ($10); a patty melt with grilled onions and Swiss on rye ($9); a homemade corned beef brisket Reuben ($9); a double-dipped crispy fried chicken breast sandwiched between two butter biscuits ($8); and a “Honkin’ Huge” burrito stuffed with chicken breast, pinto beans, tomato, onion, chile and avocado, all draped in savory red chile sauce and cheese ($8).
“The Joy Bus was inspired by my friend Joy Seitz-Butts and her battle with cancer,” Caraway said. “The diner came about as a way to turn our mission into a self-sustainable one. Operating a non-profit is not only labor-intensive but the amounts of begging needed to survive is a full-time job.
"We knew that we needed a kitchen anyway, so why not use that kitchen to generate some sort of stability for our organization? Fingers crossed, we are right,” she said.
As the free meal-delivery program has grown, so have the services. Volunteers not only deliver the food, but often stay and visit with the patients. They explain the nutrition of each meal, accommodating custom dietary needs after consulting with the patient’s doctors.
And the plan is that as patients recover, they can venture out to the diner, and continue to eat just as well. One of the diner’s first customers was Joy Bus supporter Sarah Shapiro, who just had her medical port removed and shows no signs of cancer.
She can select from dishes that are “Joy Bus meal recipient-approved items,” such as bircher muesli Swiss oatmeal with apple and seasonal fruit ($5); avocado toast with poached egg, arugula and tomato ($4); or a power bowl of arugula, quinoa, chickpeas, avocado, tomato, cucumber and sheep’s milk feta in citrus almond dressing ($7).
The next step: a lifetime of good nutrition. As the restaurant operation gets settled, Caraway plans to start offering free cooking classes at night, so patients can continue healthy diets on their own.
Building the diner has been a true community project, Caraway said. “I am the main cook, but we have another full-time cook, and two waitresses, plus volunteer hostesses and prep cooks daily.”
Fox Restaurant Concepts donated its interior designer’s services for the 38-seat space and supplied tables and chairs, while G4 Builders in Scottsdale handled the kitchen setup.
Virtually every component of the diner reflects Valley companies giving back, from services supplied by Good Guys Drywall to Arizona's Best Painting, Andrew's Refrigeration, Pipe Rite Plumbing, Roadrunner Glass, Hardkor Electric, Clayton Floor Covering and a list of three dozen more names.
Other restaurants add their own bit of joy, too, with fundraising partnerships that change monthly. In June, Tracy Dempsey Originals of Tempe donated all sales proceeds from its specialty doughnut muffin to the Joy Bus. In July, The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix is donating all sales proceeds from "The Joy Ride," a Jamaican-style punch with tropical fruits, house-made macerations, tonic, tinctures and shrubs.
This year's azcentral.com Food & Wine Experience has selected The Joy Bus as the festival's official charity beneficiary. As part of the fundraising events, the Nov. 4-6 event will hold an opening-rice reception called First Course on Nov. 4 on the festival grounds at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
“I do not do this alone,” Caraway said. “I surround myself with some very amazing humans who have not only morphed our mission into more than I had ever dreamt, but help to execute our mission daily. I feel so very lucky to have that support."
Address: Joy Bus Diner, 3375 E. Shea Blvd, Phoenix, AZ 85028
Open: Tuesday - Sunday 7 AM - 2 PM
Kyle comments: “Hey, everyone, let’s support this GREAT diner with a cause. I had lunch here last week, and it was amazing! Cute restaurant with wonderful service. I tried the Power Bowl and loved the citrus almond dressing. Please stop in and support this special place.”
[Information supplied by Carey Sweet, Special for The Arizona Republic]