You’re either a potluck person or you’re not. Maybe mixing foods is so frightening that you freak out if a pea touches your mashed potatoes. But if you love the idea of having ceviche, mac and cheese, and beef bulgogi on one plate, there’s a good chance you’ll like Baran’s 2239. It’s a neighborhood restaurant in Hermosa Beach that feels like a big hangout with friends, involving a slightly random assortment of food.
In a strip mall on PCH removed from the Hermosa Pier, Baran’s looks kind of like a homey, laid-back apartment, with crooked shelves, wine bottle holders on the wall that were last seen in the ’90s, and sports playing on the TV. It’s also full of extremely friendly people, like the person sitting next to you at the bar who will chat about work and then share her brussels sprouts, or the server who will talk sports or politics with you. And then there’s the chef hanging out in the back, cooking some of his favorite things. Which, it turns out, could be almost anything.
At first glance, the menu reads like the email chain for a potluck where everyone announces what they’re bringing and nothing quite goes together. It changes pretty regularly, but you’ll find everything from squid ink gnocchi with crab to a shrimp tostada and jerk chicken wings. Those jerk wings are legitimately spicy, and the shrimp tostada is fantastic, but there are also some misses. The Italian-ish gnocchi is overpowered by the crab that comes with it, and the crispy octopus sounds interesting, but instead is pretty bland. And at some point, you might feel like you could have gone through dinner without having both fried chicken and spaghetti aglio e olio in the same meal.
But at the end of dinner at Baran’s, you probably won’t remember that tostadas and gnocchi don’t really go together. You’ll accept that you ate a bunch of different stuff, most of it good, and probably made friends with the people at the table next to you. Sounds like a pretty successful potluck to us.
Generally, we get kind of mad when restaurants make us pay for bread. But this parmesan focaccia comes with a rich, tomato-y butter that we would eat on its own.
Yes, fried brussels sprouts with an egg on top will remind you of 2012. Also yes, these ones are fantastic.
This is really a tostada sandwich, involving two crispy tortillas with shrimp in the middle and cumin crema and an avocado aguachile on top. We like this sandwich.
If you order these, you’ll be warned about the spice, in case you didn’t catch that “extra spicy” on the menu. You probably won’t need to pause for a glass of milk in the middle, but you will likely need a tissue.
If you like gnocchi and if you like seafood, this seems like a no-brainer. But this dish just doesn’t really work. The gnocchi is just fine, and the crab ends up being a bit too overpowering.
This is some pretty great chicken - it’s not dried out but it’s perfectly crunchy, and the smokiness makes it different from every other fried chicken you’ve ever had. It is just chicken on a plate though, and they don’t have any sides you can add on.
We generally prefer the appetizers at Baran’s, but the filet is an exception. The meat is high-quality and will be cooked exactly how you ask for it. Also, the corn puree underneath it is possibly the best part.
This buttery bundt cake is brûléed before it arrives at your table. We would like all cakes to be blasted with a blow torch before we eat them.