Justin Duaz is quietly making some of the best breakfast sandwiches in Portland. At his cart Balong (Ilocano for “little boy,” and the nickname his grandmother gave him), the San Jose native is turning out savory Filipino-American mashups of childhood favorites, including a deceptively complex potato pave and toast piled high with perfectly scrambled eggs. But the sandwich is the star: house-made sausage, sun dried tomato and garlic aioli, melty Tillamook cheddar and a perfectly fried egg served on freshly baked pan de sal.
For Justin, “food is a love language,” and after graduating from culinary school he moved to Los Angeles, where he cut his teeth at some of that city’s most beloved brunch spots (including the legendary Eggslut), finding common cause with a host of other up-and-coming Filipino-American chefs. He eventually landed in Portland, and since last October he’s been operating out of Baon Kainan (another superlative Fil-Am joint with a cart just a few blocks from Wellspent) on Monday and Tuesday mornings. For Justin, being able to make and serve his sandwiches on pan de sal–a traditional Filipino roll–is a dream come true. Pan de sal was an integral part of Justin’s childhood, baked fresh and served with every meal. “There are Filipino bakeries all over the Bay Area” he says, and offering homemade pan de sal to Portlanders “allows me to feel connected to my roots.”