Our Editor Breaks Bread with an Old Buddy at Baran’s 2239

Friends and focaccia.

Call it serendipity at a strip mall, but the perfect union of one incredible meal and two friends catching up took place at Baran’s 2239 last month. For years friends have been raving about this Hermosa hot spot, sandwiched between a taco eatery and a smoke shop. But what it lacks in curb appeal, it makes up in the menu. This place, helmed by brothers Jonathan Baran and Jason Baran, is off-the-hook good. Thankfully my friend Rich, also a newbie, was at my table to experience each moment. 

First, the focaccia. It’s round. It’s warm. It’s gone. I don’t think I’ve ever torn through something that fast. If we hadn’t split it evenly before taking the first bite, it could have ruined a friendship. But thankfully, each got his share. Red onion and herbs inside … herb and parm butter on top … this bread haunted me for days after. In a good way.

I’m pretty sure we were swapping work stories when the Fijian albacore sashimi hit the table. Talk of Switzerland summits and office antics ceased once this dish made contact. Buttermilk leche de tigre, gooseberries, sweet drop peppers and Peruvian corn … what were we talking about? 

Oh right, work. But let’s move on to family. I got a few details about the wife and son (all great!) before the local yellow peach and baby tomato salad rolled in. I’m listening, Rich, I promise. Oh wait, he’s consumed with the dish too. Silence. Then a sigh. Wait, where were we?

Summer plans, yes! Talk of a recent trip to France segues to sea bass almondine, better than any tasted there, followed by handmade potato gnocchi with fra diavolo sauce, guanciale, pecorino, and a pea and mint gremolata. Pretty sure a second glass of white arrived around this time as well, so I can’t confirm any information shared between us. Subtle nods across the table were enough to forge our connection. 

Coffee toffee pudding capped the night. It’s not easy saying goodbye—to a dessert of that caliber—but we tearfully did, down to the last spoonful. Joking aside, it was great to see Rich, and we did our fair share of catching up. But there’s something extra special about a meetup when it’s over an incredible meal. If a salad can succinctly silence a couple of verbose writers, you know it’s a damn good salad.