It's Tomato Season—Here's Where to Get the Best BLTs in Portland

Virginia is for lovers, August is for tomatoes, and the summer's BLT specials have hit the board.
August 4, 2022
Baon Kainan's the TLT  (SUZETTE SMITH)

Originally published on our sister site, the Portland Mercury.

Forget heat domes, wildfires, drought, and out-of-control mosquito populations: For me, the sign of a truly terrible summer is when my BLT count doesn’t reach double digits.

The alchemy of bacon, lettuce, and tomato brings those hottest days of summer together in full, glorious, decadent effect—the star member of the triad, a big, juicy heirloom tomato, hits peak ripeness in August, right along with our need to duck out of work early to dip our toes in the river.

The BLT has salt and fat from its bacon and mayonnaise, it gets crunch from the toasted bread and lettuce, and a kick of acid and subtle sweetness from the tomato. It’s perfection.

Every year, I scramble to consume as many as possible while tomato supplies last. Furthermore, the BLT is so simple that it’s a perfect at-home pursuit. My recipe is short: slice your heirloom tomato (a Brandywine is very fine), salt it, and set it on a paper towel while you make the rest. Fry up your bacon (I like Revel Meat Co.’s, from Providore Fine Foods), toast some Oyatsupan milk bread, and spread on ample Duke’s mayonnaise, then layer with the tomato and a crunchy type of lettuce (butter or even iceberg lettuce works here). Crack something cold and carbonated, toss a handful of chips down on the side, and your perfect summer meal has arrived in 20 minutes or less.

Despite it being so easy to make yourself, there are countless options to grab them on special this month, especially if you know where to look. With that in mind, I’m offering three BLTs that exemplify the spirit of ethereal seasonal eating, from a true classic to a cheffed up splurge that will keep you fortified when it’s 20 degrees and snowing.

No matter what, enjoy your sandwich slowly. Allow the inevitable juices to drip down your hand, and probably onto the white T shirt you were silly enough to wear. It’s only August once a year; go out and eat it.

Baon Kainan Add to a List

Ethan and Geri Leung opened their boundary-pushing Filipino food cart just over a year ago, and recently moved to a new location near Concourse Coffee on NE Couch. It is here that their remarkable tocino, a staple in their brunch menu, has been tapped to make the TLT ($11).

It starts with the T: pork belly cured in tocino seasoning, braised, and then pan fried in strips with tocino glaze for a sweet and savory effect. Next comes the L and the T: little gem lettuces and tomatoes from their farmer friends at Kasama farm. 

Ethan said he found out his grandfather once ran a small bakery in the Philippines, and he’s taken that inspo toward baking his own pandesal buns: a milky, soft roll with a crumb-coated exterior. That’s all tied together with a cart-made tofu aioli.

The TLT is a pleasing affair, with sweet notes from the tocino really doing justice to the acid in the tomato. It's very much worth grabbing while available as a weekday special, which Baon Kainan will offer while tomato season lasts.

Baon Kainan, 807 NE Couch St,, Weds-Fri, Sun 11 am-2 pm, Sat 11-3 pm

Sammich's the Classic SUZETTE SMITH 

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The Classic

Every summer, I make sure to pester chef/owner Melissa McMillan about when she’s going to get her BLT ($16) on the specials board. That’s because there’s a generous amount of the B, the L, and the T, and nothing else. It is a whoppingly huge platonic ideal of this sandwich. 

Sammich is famous for its house-cured and -brined pastrami, and that same skill is brought to the bacon, which is also made by the team. The salty, thick slices almost steal the show from a juicy red market tomato, sliced to McMillan’s specified three-quarters of an inch thick. (Almost.) Those two elements are tossed onto toasted Grand Central Bakery sourdough that’s slathered generously with mayo, and heaped with so many layers of iceberg lettuce it seems preposterous to wrap your mouth around, until you realize those crisp leaves are the perfect foil to those showier ingredients. It’s on the specials board while tomatoes remain in season; a restraint I appreciate when it could be so easy to build an empire on this sandwich alone.

Sammich, 2137 Burnside,  (503) 477-4393,, open daily 11-8 pm

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The Lobster BLT

I was checking Insta at a stoplight (I know, I know), when I saw chef/owner Aaron Barnett post a picture of the most fucked-up, alluring, and alarming permutation of the BLT I had ever beheld. It is taller than even the mightiest club sandwiches, pinned into place with a knife, featuring AN ENTIRE HALF LOBSTER with intact claw meat peeking out from underneath a brioche slice, just asking to hitch a ride into my mouth.

Reader, to say I flipped a U-turn and got my ass to the bar at St. Jack posthaste would be to admit to a second traffic crime in print. 

The Clawdaddy—my name, not Barnett’s, who has the sense to just call it the Lobster BLT—has sourdough brioche, a chilled half lobster, shredded lettuce, avocado, thick bacon, heirloom tomato, dilly gribiche sauce and, goddammit, lobster roe. To say it is “market price” means it is going to probably be like $50. 

However, it is shareable, especially with a side of fries, and to be frank, it’s the kind of absurd indulgence that makes life worth living. While I first tried Barnett's Lobster BLT at St. Jack in NW Portland, he says he’s running it on special again, in August, at his Lake Oswego restaurant, Lac St. Jack—it’s your job to keep an eye on the restaurant’s social media to know just when.

To me, The Clawdaddy is best with a glass of real-ass champagne, cause at this point, who is paying attention to cost?

Lac St. Jack, 4055 Mercantile Dr., Suite 175, Lake Oswego, (503) 387-3038,, Mon-Sat 5 pm-10 pm, Sun 4 pm-10 pm

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