What better time to launch a vegan food truck than during a national showcase of inventive plant-based burgers?
When Kirstie Brooks discovered that this year’s Le Burger Week festival was promoting vegan and vegetarian patties, it seemed like serendipity.
“It seems like a good time,” says the owner of Bright Side Kitchen. “We thought we’d take advantage and come out with our really fun summer BBQ menu.”
Bright Side has been in the works since 2020, when Brooks received a $25,000 grant for his vegan food truck idea from Earth’s Own Food Company, a Canadian plant-based beverage maker.
The project was put on hold due to unforeseen personal events, including a curling accident that left her with a broken vertebra and the birth of her first child, but the business is finally ready to hit the road.
With the help of Food Trucks International, a local company that specializes in building food trucks, Brooks transformed a vintage service vehicle into a brightly colored pastel purple mobile kitchen.
“It’s better than I could have imagined,” she says of the updated 1974 GMC Grumman truck. “We parked it on our street yesterday and everyone thought it was brand new.”
Bright Side is all about vegan comfort food, so coming up with a burger that everyone will love was a fitting mission.
Brooks’ starter, called Plant Boy, is a nod to Junior’s restaurant’s infamous Fat Boy burger. The patty and required chili sauce are made with Impossible brand ground meat substitute and served with lettuce, pickles and mustard on a soft brioche bun.
It’s a new spin on a nostalgic burger that Brooks hopes vegans and non-vegans alike will enjoy.
“New foods can be intimidating, so when there’s a food we know, it’s an easy entry point to try something different,” she says. “You don’t have to compromise on taste to enjoy a plant-based meal, and you don’t have to be vegan to enjoy a plant-based meal.”
The Plant Boy will be available at select times during Le Burger week, with the first pop-up scheduled for Tuesday from 4-7 p.m. at Bonnycastle Park on Assiniboine Avenue. Bright Side will also be at the Winnipeg VegFest on September 10 at the University of Winnipeg. Follow the truck on Instagram (@brightsidewpg) and Facebook (Bright Side Kitchen) for detailed updates.
More than 200 Winnipeg restaurants are taking part in this year’s Burger Week festivities from September 1-14, but only a handful are going the plant route.
Earlier this year, organizers announced that the 11th edition of the pan-Canadian food festival would focus on plant-based burgers due to “high demand for meat alternatives”. While restaurants were encouraged to follow the theme, vegan or vegetarian entrees were not required to participate.
For Danny Van Lancker, co-owner of Rae’s Bistro in North Kildonan, presenting a meatless burger did not fit the concept of his all-year-round restaurant.
“We are a meat house; everything we do is meat,” says Van Lancker. “A big part of Burger Week is (bringing) new people in. We want to make sure that everything they try is an accurate representation of what we have on our regular menu.
Rae’s offers a new burger special every week of the year – an ongoing form of product testing that comes in handy during Burger Week. This year’s entree, titled Don’t Go Bacon My Heart, features a six-ounce beef patty topped with thick maple bacon, aged white cheddar, beetroot chips and blackcurrant jam on a small toasted pretzel bread. It’s the quintessence of a restaurant where even the fries are cooked in beef fat.
At Modern Electric Lunch, serving a vegan burger was an equally fitting decision for the brand.
“Probably 50% (of our menu) is vegan,” says general manager Madeleine Olvera. “So we adapt perfectly to that.”
Last year, during their first crack at Burger Week, the Main Street breakfast and lunch cafe also submitted a plant-based entree in a bid to stand out from the crowd. Customers responded positively and it was obvious to continue the tradition this year, especially given the theme of the event.
“I think it’s a good direction to push people,” says Olvera. “It’s just good for the environment; that’s why our restaurant does it. We try to be as aware as possible.
The Burg with No Name – a Tex-Mex inspired creation featuring a black bean patty, pulled jackfruit “pork”, vegan nacho cheese, candied jalapenos, pickled red onions, charred onions and sambal aioli, hickory sticks, shredded lettuce on a potato bun — will be available at Modern Electric Lunch starting Thursday.