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The special sauce burger (left) and seasonal white bean & pumpkin burger at Next Level Burger.

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Only days after the Maple Parlor opened its special-diet-friendly sundae shop, another new eatery is about to open on Hawthorne. Set in the former Pita Pit on 41st, Next Level Burger offers your standard slate of diner fare—think chili cheese dogs, sweet potato fries, cookies n' cream milkshakes and cheeseburgers dripping with special sauce.

But there's a twist: it's all 100% plant-based. 

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Pumpkin milkshake—patrons can choose soy or coconut-based.

"Our goal is to reinvent the classic American burger stand," says co-founder Matthew de Gruyter. De Gruyter, who previously worked in oil and gas private equity, switched to a plant-based diet after borrowing Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet from wife and NLB co-founder Cierra de Gruyter. As Portland Monthly reported in April, the brand launched in Bend in July 2014 and quickly became a pilgrimage destination for Portlanders and other plant-based eaters. By focusing on an organic, vegan menu, the de Gruyters hope to attract anyone who—whether due to doctor's orders, environmentalism, or ethical concerns—have given up meat and other animal products, but not the taste for fast food. 

"To be honest, for me, the more people eating healthy, the better," Matthew says. "I don't care why you want to try a plant-based burger joint, I just want you to come in." To that end, the burger joint also offers allergen-friendly options like soy-free shakes, gluten-free buns, and even a dedicated gluten-free griddle. 

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Between super-slick branding reminiscent of vegan chains Veggie Grill and Native Foods, and a menu sourced largely off-site—only two of the restaurant's nine burgers use patties made in-house—Next Level Burger seems poised to expand onto the national scene. (The de Gruyters are already eyeing markets outside of Oregon.) So, if you want to say you knew them when, you'll probably want to hurry in when the eatery opens on October 19. We recommend the seasonal specials—pumpkin milkshakes, anyone?

Next Level Burger
4121 SE Hawthorne St
Sun-Thur: 8 am–9 pm
Fri-Sat: 8 am–10 pm

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