We had the good fortune of connecting with Don Balanay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Don, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am born and raised in Pico Rivera, California spending much of my time in Los Angeles in Historic Filipinotown off Rampart and 2nd. I was fortunate enough to grow up around a loving set of parents and a large family that always got together every weekend – sometimes my brother and I would get picked up from school on Fridays and end up staying at Lolo and Lola’s to the wee hours of the morning surrounded by cousins all pranking each other, the adults playing cards on the patio ‘watching’ over us, and walking over to the liquor store to purchase some dollar nachos or hug barrel fruit juices.
As the older cousins got older and began getting their permits, the younger ones like myself were able to explore more of the City and other places they’d treat us to. We’d all hop in my Uncle’s four runner and we’d all go to the movies, eat out somewhere – it was always an adventure! Then, when Summer would come around we’d all go to the beaches and spend our mornings there just hitting the waves and enjoying come what may.
My background and upbringing gave me the foundational understanding of a loving family, one without labels or differences in appearance. It taught me that joy doesn’t come from spending exorbitant amounts of money but rather in the simple joys in life – I mean, have you ever played foursquare on hot pink concrete with uneven cracks defining boundaries while juggling your gummy candy and dodging the calls for dinner? If not, you’re missing out!
This togetherness that I was blessed with growing up made me the man I am today shaping me with facets of loyalty and simplicity. My family and I are willing to run to the ends of the Earth for each other. Whenever someone’s in need, we got each other. There’s been times we’ve fought, we’re not perfect, but all we have to do is remember where we came from, those nights at the 262 and we’re straight.
When it comes to simplicity, I do what I can to make every dish of mine as simple as possible – like those liquor store dollar nachos, 3 to 4 ingredients, why complicate the humbleness of what it is? Let the ingredients shine and let the moment shine, you don’t need foie gras, wagyu, and truffle for something super delicious. You make do with what you got and it’s such a powerful skill to have in today’s fast paced complex and ever evolving world.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Right now, I’ve joined the Lokels Only team and we’re collectively super stoked to get the brand back up and running. I’m excited to have had the chance to take creative approaches to the Lokels Only menu we’re launching this year and we’re gonna be making waves in the community!
It was not easy to get to where we are today. There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into overcoming all of the challenges we’ve all faced in our lives. For my own, I’ve been able to lean onto my family for support and burn the midnight oil whenever necessary to make business survive and handle responsibilities while juggling a full-time 9-5.
If there’s anything I want the world to know about me it’s this: Be Authentic. Be you, be your greatest you, and nobody can come close to replicating it. Only you know what’s best and there’s going to be countless times that you won’t know what defines you or how things are supposed to be done or what the next step is and it’s in those times you figure out and develop your own unique style that’s attractive to the world. Keep struggling, keep grinding, and keep hustling to get to where you want to be and when you begin to embody the marathon mindset, you’ll see the adventure has only just begun.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Hopefully the Dodgers or Lakers and playing because going to a game surrounded by LA fans any day of the week is well worth the lines and wait-times! That’d definitely be one of the things we’d do on this week long trip. When it comes to eating and drinking, we’d definitely be hitting up some nice California spots, some In-n-Out, some Tommy’s hamburgers, some Caña Rum Bar and definitely some Las Perlas. Oh, and if it’s before a Dodger game, we’re definitely hitting up Philippe’s.
There’s always something great in Los Angeles going down, sometimes just wandering around and getting lost in the City with someone who knows their way around can lead you to new gems in your life. There are plenty of small dives you can find just by aimlessly (and safely) going on through the night. If you wanna ball out, I’d hit up Otium. If you want to keep it fresh and not hurt the wallet too much, there’s one of my favorite spots like Lasita and Amboy.
In my opinion, the hustle and bustle of the city will provide the perfect background ambiance to this ever moving City of Angels that I love. It doesn’t matter if you’re fine dining or eating dirty dogs off the street, there’s excitement wherever you go as long as you have an open mindset and hungry enough to eat.
Then, to nurse the hangover we’d eventually have, we’d end the trip likely on the beach somewhere getting toasty under the sun.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Family for sure gets first prize on this Shoutout! If it weren’t for my family, especially my brother Jan, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today and I’d still be up to no good doing only God knows what. Dude still gives me s*** to this day and I’m thankful for it, one of the realest dad-bod old school Filipinos hate you in a love you kind of way.
Another shoutout goes to Lokels Only! Mike, Jamie, Charlie and Kissa – we’re on to big things and can’t wait to see what we’ve worked on thus far and all the we have in the pocket ready to bring to the world!
And of course, I have to shoutout my wife Kelly! Through all faults, she has been my backbone supporting every move I make no matter how unlikely the chance of success is. She accepts me for who I am and together we live our lives of love with God.