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Karma on wheels

Rub Food Truck owner Joel Bein partners with Cherry Street Yoga to feed Tulsa’s homeless

Joel Bein

Greg Bollinger

Joel Bein began his career as a barbecue pit master without even knowing it. 

Bein was the president of his daughter’s Parent Teacher Association and would make food with his smoker for the yearly get-togethers. His barbecue soon became sought after by other parents, then their friends, and so on. When a food truck crossed his path, he jumped at the chance, and Rub BBQ was born. 

Though Bein has had no formal culinary training, he grew up in a food-centric, multi-cultural family.

“My dad was a Jew from the East Coast, my mom was from New Orleans,” Bein said, “so I was exposed to all the great classic New Orleans dishes—Creole and Cajun and French cuisines—along with Jewish kosher delicacies, so all those flavors are in my wheelhouse.”

Barbecue is the main focus, but the Rub truck produces more than straight-forward barbecue sandwiches. The al pastor tacos are made with pork that’s slow simmered in coconut water, pineapple and jalapeno, imparting a sweet heat. The lamb tacos and the ahi tuna tostadas are also popular, and the brunch has caused a commotion. 

The Fat Stack is probably the star of Rub’s brunch service, with its base of smoky, cheesy grits, topped with a selection of luxurious items—king crab meat, tenderloin, or pork belly—then crowned with a poached egg and hollandaise. Bein also whips up some killer chilaquiles and a French toast that is downright naughty, with macerated berries and fluffy brioche bread from an artisan bakery in Texas. In other words, definitely not items you would expect from a barbecue truck. 

“I start everything from a traditional approach to my barbecue—the rub and smoke,” Bein said. “Even though it seems simple, there is a lot of nuance there. But what is really fun for me is using the barbecue as the base, then elevating it.”

Bein’s truck has made the rounds over the past two years to all the big festivals and events downtown. But during one of those bustling festivals, he noticed something disconcerting. 

“I’d see people walking around, eyeballing the trash can. Then, not thinking anyone is watching them, they’d reach in for leftover food. It just really kind of crushes you,” said Bein. “The first time I saw that, I made five sandwiches, put them in a bag and gave them to the guy, and tried not to be conspicuous.” 

Word spread that a hot meal could be had at the Rub Food Truck, and Bein found himself feeding several homeless folks, incognito. He wanted to do more.

“After rocking a brunch service at Empire Bar, we had some leftover pork. So we went downtown and gave it away.”

He pulled the truck up on the corner across from The Day Center for the Homeless. One hundred to 150 people immediately lined up. 

“It was shocking and heartbreaking at the same time. But when you see the kids, it takes it to the next level,” he said. He
had the kids come to the front so they would get first dibs on a warm meal. 

Feeding the homeless has become a passion for Bein, but it’s tough for the small-business owner to do it as often as he would like. So, he has joined forces with Cherry Street Yoga to help fuel his new outreach project, Karma Café. 

Bein has been friends with Jahan Mostofi, the owner of Cherry Street Yoga, for two decades. When he described the plan, Mostofi loved the idea.

“It really fits with their mission of making yoga accessible to everyone by being donation based,” Bein said. “It’s going to give me a bigger platform and, hopefully, we can keep growing it.”

The first Sunday of every month at 12:30 p.m., Cherry Street Yoga will host a donation-based yoga class that will benefit Karma Café, 100 percent. Then Bein and Mostofi will purchase, prepare, and serve food on the second Sunday of the month. 

“Before, we sort of went renegade and served at random spots,” he said. “For this project we have organized more and partnered up with the Mental Health Association. We will be going to various intake centers around town, spreading the love.” 

Hair stylist Julie Morgan and a team of other stylists will also be on hand to give free haircuts to those in need of a trim. 

“That way we can fill them up, give them a nice haircut. Get them looking good and feeling good,” Bein said.

For many restaurant owners, the desire to do more to help their community doesn’t always equal the resources they have available.  

“I’m nobody. I’m just the little guy,” Bein said. “But if we all join together and pitch in, we can do a lot to help in our city.”

For more from Angela, read her article on Fair Fellow Coffee.

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