One of the many unexpected quirks of Los Angeles is its penchant for strip malls. They're everywhere here; small ones and large ones, sometimes double-decker, usually U- or L-shaped, and always equipped with an inadequate amount of parking spaces. Sometimes, they hold the types of businesses you'd expect - dry cleaners, small bank branches, coffee shops - and then other times, they're home to some of the finest restaurants in the city. It remains a surprise to find out that the restaurant you've heard so much about is actually tucked in between a foot spa and a smoke shop, but this is not unheard of in Los Angeles, so you roll with it. And when you roll into Baran's 2239, you'll be glad you did.
Its space is tiny - surprisingly so; it's a narrow room lined with tufted banquettes, with a long community table down the center. There’s a short bar at the back, where the regulars gather to nosh and chat with the staff. Its style is part gastropub, part industrial-chic, with a mirrored wall to reflect the light coming in from the large windows at the front. During the day, the vibe here is calm and mellow, and at night (when reservations are required, no matter the day of the week), it is warm and alive with conversation. The food that comes out of the kitchen in back is unexpected, creative, brave. This is a neighborhood joint at heart, but there is a strong point of view and a sense of élan that you might not expect.
If you were to peek behind the swinging door to the kitchen, you'd find that Baran's 2239 is in many ways a family affair. Brothers Jonathan and Jason Baran named their first restaurant venture in honor of their family's historic restaurant, The Brotherton Farmhouse, which operated for fifty years at 2239 E. Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena. Meanwhile, Chef Tyler Gugliotta, an old friend of the Baran brothers and a South Bay native, sources much of his produce from Weiser Family Farms, owned by his aunt and uncle. It all adds up to a comfortable, familiar feeling when you walk in the door, and it's probably part of what makes Baran's 2239 so popular with the locals.
Brunch is a new venture for the Baran's team, and when we visited on a recent Saturday morning, it seemed that word had not yet gotten out - though with such a tempting menu, it's bound to catch on fast. There are options for both a healthy, vegetable-centered brunch or a more sinful, decadent one, and of course, plenty of beers and cocktails if it's a boozy brunch you're after. We aimed for balance when we ordered - a straight shot through the middle with a mix of sweet and salty, heavy and light. It was just right.
We started with a Daily Donut - a house-made donut with seasonally rotating flavor options. Ours was a chocolate coconut donut, filled with a luscious coconut mousse and topped with crunchy toasted coconut shavings. We loved the texture of the donut - it was denser than most, and able to stand up to the substantial toppings and filling. This was such a perfect way to start the meal - fun, flavorful, and surprisingly not too sweet.
Next, we opted to try the granola with honey pepper yogurt, faro, and market fruit. The faro granola was super crunchy and had a satisfying hint of saltiness, which played nicely off the fresh fruit. Our favorite part of this dish was the honey pepper yogurt - it was creamy, savory, and sweet all at once, and not at all what you'd expect yogurt to taste like.
With summer in full swing, California produce is at its peak, which means we're craving big, fresh salads all the time - so we couldn't resist ordering the Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad, which featured dates, pistachios, and a preserved lemon vinaigrette. The dressing was reminiscent of a Japanese Yuzu dressing, and it provided a nice tanginess to compliment the sweet dates. This is a simple, satisfying, refreshing dish that makes a great contrast to any heartier brunch dishes you might be indulging in.
Finally, we ordered the Smoked Belly Hash, with potatoes, pepper relish, and sunny side up eggs - a standout dish. The potatoes were melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and paired perfectly with the smoky pork belly and the delicious runny eggs. We loved the slightly spicy sauce, which felt like a lively, uplifting way to round out such a rich and hearty dish.
Baran's 2239 feels like a hidden gem, a burst of vitality in a sleepy little strip mall in a part of town you wouldn't expect. It's delicious, creative, and yet somehow comfortable - we can't wait to come back and see what they come up with next!
502 Pacific Coast Hwy.
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254