Sailin On Brings Vegan Food to the Streets

From a front stoop to the streets of Edmonton, the guys in one of the city’s newest food trucks have been busy this summer.

Run by friends Michael Brennan and Garrett Kruger, the vegan Sailin On food truck is usually found at Wunderbar on Whyte Avenue, the Southwest Edmonton Farmers Market (Wednesdays) and the 124 Grand Market (Thursdays), as well as the other odd location throughout the city.

“We’ve been throwing around the idea about vegan something forever,” Brennan said earlier this summer, before the truck actually launched. “I mean, there was a pizzeria that was an idea about three years ago, just silly things, but throughout the years it became clearer and clearer and the timing became more right for us to quit our jobs and jump into it full-time.”

Co-owners Michael Brennan and Garrett Kruger
Michael Brennan and Garrett Kruger have been friends for a long time, and are now the co-owners of the vegan food truck Sailin On. Photo courtesy Sailin On.

Before they jumped into it full-time, however, there was a lot of research — community members in Garneau might recognize the pair, along with another friend Dallas Thompson, as the people who were selling vegan corn dogs off a front stoop for a couple of summers; Brennan used a travelling opportunity to go through the United States and experience their food truck culture; and a pop-up restaurant experience in late April at Three Boars Eatery resulted in a line-up down the block before they even had the physical truck.

It showed them that the vegan and vegetarian community were willing to supported interesting and good food, Brennan said, adding that while it’s getting a little bit better, late-night options for vegans and vegetarians is still quite limited.

“Our food isn’t about just being for vegans, it’s food for everyone to enjoy, and we just happen to be really good at cooking vegan food,” he said, adding he has worked in vegetarian restaurants and has been vegan himself for about 10 years.

“It is a bit of a learning curve, and it took me quite a few years to become comfortable with creating vegan food that I was comfortable serving to the masses, but at this point, we’re ready to go full-time.”

Now, it’s not uncommon to see tweets from the Sailin On account that apologize for selling out of food before an event is over. Nor is it uncommon to see them retweeting people’s excited comments about eating at the truck, whether they normally eat meat or not.

“There are some people, where vegan food is kind of this separate entity, it’s like, ‘That’s vegan food, I don’t eat that,'” Kruger said. “To me, that’s a short-sighted argument. Or, it’s a short-sighted excuse not to try something.

“Because the point of us doing it that was is so that there’s something for everyone — people that are vegan, people that are vegetarian, people that just want to eat something that just so happens not to be meat, but it’s great food.”

Not only are both of them vegans and good at cooking meatless food, but they also share a love for punk rock, which is where the name for the truck comes from.

Garrett Kruger, Sailin On co-owner
Garrett Kruger, co-owner of Sailin On, in the vegan food truck. Photo courtesy Sailin On.

It’s a Bad Brains reference, Brennan explained, and while they knew they wanted to have throwback to the music genre, they weren’t sure what it should be, until they were sitting on the stoop one day.

“Garrett looked at me, tapped me on the leg, and said, ‘Dude, Sailin On.’ And I said ‘Yeah, that’s perfect,’” Brennan said. “And that was it. That was the name. And it comes from one of our favourite punk bands of all time, and that’s pretty cool.”

Kruger’s role in the partnership is more marketing and networking, he said, adding that they’ve had a lot of friends come forward also offering various skill sets that they’ve needed at some point in the process.

Their friends have also been guinea pigs when trying new recipes — “You have a mouth, you have tastebuds, and you like food,” Brennan offered as the qualities needed for the position — and Kruger’s degree in psychology and experience in data analysis has also helped with that.

He created a questionnaire that their friends, after spending $5 and getting to sample two menu items and a side dish, had to fill out. It was something he never thought he would use that set of skills for, he added.

“Our friends have seriously been guinea pigs, but they’re the happiest people, because they’re getting free food all the time, and it’s good for us,” he continued. “And you know what the greatest part is, and not just begin able to feed your friends? The greatest part is that they’re so brutally honest.

“If it were a bunch of strangers, there would be the possibility of them being polite comments, but not giving you a real answer. They helped us refine things by coming to eat food with us, coming to hang on the stoop with us. They’re super full, everyone wants to just hang out, and instead they’re filling out surveys.”

With the truck now up and running, their goal is always local first, to the point they make their own sauces. Recently, they’ve also started carrying Moonshine Doughnuts and Bloom Cookies.

“Garrett and I have some ideas for the future that we’ll keep between outselves for now,” Brennan said in May. “At this point, we can’t go any further beyond the summer and opening, and hoping we have a great summer.”