Fast food and healthy food. They just don't go together, and they never really have. But Matthew de Gruyter and his wife, Cierra, think there's a Venn diagram case to be made where the two kinds of food can co-exist if you carve out the space for it. And they're banking on the fact that you'll think so, too.
Next Level Burger, their fast food-inspired joint that serves plant-based meals, opened its first restaurant in Bend in July of 2014, and as of today, they're operating a new shop on the Hawthorne strip.
Matthew says he considers Next Level to be a "have your cake and eat it, too" kind of place. "What we're going for is a place that gets you to rock 'n' roll and seize the day, rather than seize the couch and take a nap."
In other words, they've swapped out animal products in favor of soy, tempeh, and locally grown organic vegetables designed to leave you feeling spry (as opposed to sluggish) when your lunch break's done.
Think burgers (eight in all, made with ingredients like soy, ancient grains, black beans and sprouted tofu), French fries, milkless milkshakes, Cobb salads, and chili cheese dogs, all of which are vegan, and if you ask, oftren gluten-free, too.
Among the other items available: tater tots, sweet potato fries, chili cheese fries, kraut dogs, cookies 'n' cream milkshakes, grilled cheeses, and a trio of kale salads.
The idea, Matthew says, is to serve up fast nostalgic comfort food, with a side of health, that will appeal to 90 percent of diners, and not just their vegan friends and family.
And don't worry, Portland: you can still order draft beer, wine, and cider if you'd rather skip Next Level's homemade juices and sodas in favor of something a little edgier.
If all goes well, the de Guyters want to expand—they have their eyes on Seattle—but are waiting to see how it all plays out here in Portland first.
Next Level Burger: 4121 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503.919.7058; Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays