Started in Bend, Next Level Burger brought its all-vegan fast food to Portland last October, and Willamette Week, bloggers, and amateur reviewers have put together a solid corpus of criticism over the past three months. Here are the highlights in a little something we like to call, Good News/Bad News.
Good News: Next Level Burger seems to really nail dairy alternatives, like vegan swiss cheese and vegan milkshakes and ice cream. "The vanilla soft serve seriously reminds me of the soft serve I use to get at Mc'Dees," writes Yelper Sam. R.
Bad News: The burgers, for the most part. "I've had four in my three visits, and none managed to transcend the supermarket Gardenburger," writes WWeek food critic Martin Cizmar.
The What-Do-You-Mean-The-Burgers-Aren't-Good News: Not everyone agrees; for instance, Yelper Vanessa S. writes the Special Sauce Burger has "excellent flavor, texture, and fullness [...], but I don't feel like greasy garbage afterwords!" Then again, Kelley, author of the VegetarianPDX food blog, describes the SoCal burger's tofu-and-veggie burger as "subtly-flavored" and longed for more flavorful toppings, adding, "Smoky tempeh bacon almost did it, but the texture of tempeh makes it really hard to carry strong flavors. "
The Awesome-Service News: The employees in the matching uniforms behind the counter get almost universal props across amateur review websites.
The Greatest-Hits News: Burgers aside, people seem to really like NLB's food options. WWeek's Cizmar says he wouldn't change a thing about the vegan grilled cheese or the tomato soup, and "a plate of chili cheese fries with three-bean chili was exactly the sort of comforting, classic junk-food dish I could imagine vegans searching out."
The You-Think-You're-Ready-For-The-Big-Time News: Next Level Burger hasn't receive a truly glowing professional review, which may lend some credence to Cizmar's opening argument in his review. "Owner Matt de Gruyter, a former private equity executive, hasn't been quiet about his goal of going national," writes Cizmar. "To get that far, I think Next Level needs to make some changes."