By Nancy Tannler
4121 SE Hawthorne Blvd,
Open daily 8 am – 9 pm
Mankind is taking responsibility for the state of our beloved planet, and this is evidenced by the business choices of many young entrepreneurs.
Matt de Gruyter of Next Level Burger, is one of them. He entered the corporate world shortly after college in Denver, working for a venture capital oil company. This was his second choice when his law school ambition was circumvented by love, marriage and a baby carriage.
The world of high finance and earth-robbing enterprises started to become less appealing as a livelihood to Matt after living in Southern California and experiencing a different cultural awareness.
His wife, Cierra, became a vegetarian and the family diet started to shift. They both became more conscious of their food choices and how the food chain connected to every other living thing. They were concerned for the well-being of their small child and wanted to make a better world for him.
Cierra’s passion for the art of cooking led her to create recipes that replicated some of the American standards but were based on vegetable rather than animal products. They decided to pull up stakes, move to Cierra’s home turf of Bend and start the first all plant-based protein burger joint – Next Level Burger.
“From the moment we opened the doors here the community liked what we were offering,” Matt said.
What they have to offer is really good burgers, hot-dogs, regular and sweet potato fries, non-dairy shakes, kids meals, salads, breakfast food, teas, beer, juices and other hand-crafted beverages. They use no animal products; only “food made out of food” so no hormones, antibiotics or pesticides are present.
Next Level Burger has a low impact on the planet and that’s why they have given their restaurant this name. “I’m a millennial and I can see that we will have to change what we choose to do if we want all we have to be there for our grandchildren,” Matt said.
Since the Bend restaurant was so well-received, what better next place to expand to but Portland, the current mecca of gastronomy. When the space on Hawthorne became available, they knew this would be the perfect location. There’s even parking available.
They went to work on the remodel and, like the choices they made for their menu, they consider the health of the planet in all their decisions. The new location used as much reclaimed, reused and repurposed product as possible. One of the countertops was the floor of a 1957 bowling alley, the floors came from a fir tree forest around a maraschino cherry farm. The trays and cups are made of bamboo with compostable packaging.
The beverages they serve are on another level too including draught kombucha, beer, cider and organic wine; organic fresh raw juices; fresh squeezed lemonade; cane sugar and agave soft drinks and Fair Trade teas.
The burger menu is designed to appeal as much to the Safeway butcher as the yoga teacher. The Next Level Burger is a savory meaty patty with 22 grams of protein topped with a dill pickle, yellow mustard, eggless mayonnaise and ketchup served on a sprouted whole wheat grain bun, lettuce tomatoes and onion, all organic and very satisfying.
The quinoa burger is made with sprouted quinoa, black chia seeds topped with ketchup, egg-free mayo and NL cheese plus all the works. These can be served on a gluten free bun and there are plenty of delicious extras that can be added.
The ambiance is in keeping with the original burger joint theme, bright, cheerful, good music and fast, friendly service. SE Portland now has one of our classic foods – burger, fries and a shake in a wave of the future format that tastes good and provides nutrition in a sustainable way.