Bend, Oregon-founded non-meat burger chain Next Level Burger starts elevating Potrero Hill vegan dining today. The new shop at 450 Rhode Island Street is one in a fleet of Next Level Burger locations to open inside Whole Foods stores in a budding partnership: Customers can find NLB restaurants at the grocer’s stores in Brooklyn, Seattle, and Concord. This latest location complements the Potrero Hill Whole Food’s beer bar, Steep Brew, and it’s open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
NLB and others in the arena like Amy’s Vegetarian Drive-Thru are riding a swelling wave of consumer demand. “The writing’s on the wall,” says Next Level Burger CEO and co-founder Matt de Gruyte. “People are more interested in making better health and environmental decisions from San Francisco to Dallas, Texas.”
When he wrote his business plan four years ago, de Gruyte says studies showed one third of Americans were looking to cut down on meat. The number one reason was their health. Now, two thirds want to cut back on meat — and a new, number two reason for doing so is climate change.
“I really see this as a responsibility,” de Gruyte says. “That’s only more solidified as we see record temperatures, and raging fires. For me personally, I cannot think of a better way to make an impact.”
On top of NLB’s burgers — whose various patties are made from mushrooms, quinoa, black beans, and other ingredients — Next Level Burger carries patties from Beyond Meat, a growing company with a convincing meat substitute. A Bay Area-based competitor, Impossible Foods, isn’t on the Next Level Burger menu — NLB has a commitment to not using genetically modified products, and Impossible Foods uses GMOs. Aside from burgers, NLB also serves salads, crinkle-cut fries, soy or coconut based shakes, and non-meat hot dogs.
Like a slew of other restaurants, NLB has taken to calling itself “plant-based” rather than vegan. “So many people have negative associations with the term vegan, which speaks to this whole lifestyle,” de Gruyte says. “We want to just feed people.... its goal wasn’t to be exclusive. Both the hardcore vegan yoga teacher, and my father-in-law — a kinda real life Yosemite Sam type — they can both enjoy it.”
There’s nothing to be dogmatic about, de Gruyte insists. “I want you to decide to go to NLB, and whether you have a 20 ounce steak or organic tofu later, regardless, I want it to be the place where you get that burger fix.”