Tony Yanow was a bit surprised at the resistance he faced after announcing Mohawk Bend, the restaurant and bar he's installing in the old Ramona Theater on Sunset Boulevard. While most locals welcome an addition to the neighborhood's eating and drinking options, a small but web-savvy contingent of Echo Park residents expressed concerns about parking and public drunkenness.
"One neighbor a couple blocks away is worried about people throwing up on their lawn" Yanow said. "The chances of a person being drunk enough to vomit outside, then walking two blocks uphill to do so … that's not how it works."
It's been less than a year since Yanow re-opened Tony's Darts Away, a Burbank dive bar that he transformed into a gathering place for lovers of craft beer. Similarly to Mohawk Bend, Tony's is located on a busy commercial street with private homes directly behind the business. Yanow claims that Tony's has integrated nicely with the neighborhood and Mohawk Bend will do the same in Echo Park.
"Look at my track record, look at the plans, or, just don't assume the worst," he commented. "People who come to places like mine have fun, but they're thoughtful as well."
It has been widely reported that the space is 10,000 square feet. ("People think it's going to look like Borders Books or something," Yanow worried.) It's actually smaller than that, with a 4,000 square foot dining room and a kitchen about half that size. Though it is somewhat large for the area, according to Yanow, Taix is "considerably bigger," and the Echoplex holds more people.
Yanow said he is sensitive to neighbors' concerns about parking. He attempted to help get permit parking for local residents, he said, but gave up after the necessary division of local government closed due to budget cuts.
So now Yanow's focus is on bike racks and valet parking. He plans to have 100 valet spots available each night at a cost of less than $4 apiece. (The rule of thumb is one valet for every four seats.)
While many of Mohawk Bend's commercial neighbors support the new establishment, the managers at nearby Elf Café said they don't know anything about the restaurant or Yanow and are withholding judgment.
Nicole Daddio, owner of the wine bar City Sip, which is located across the street from Mohawk Bend, is supportive of the new restaurant and even attended the conditional use permit hearing. She understands neighbors' concerns about parking, she said, but added that private residents "rely on business owners to solve the problem, when it should be the city's responsibility."
Daddio also said the empty space behind her bar would be better used as a parking lot than the elementary school currently under construction.
City Council President Eric Garcetti's office says he is "supportive of bringing in a new restaurant to transform the currently abandoned property," but they are hedging their bets, saying they hope Yanow addresses parking and other community issues.
As for the restaurant, the dining area will be split into four distinct areas, with a total capacity of 200 people–though the back room, which holds 70, will only be open for private parties and other special events. There will also be a patio on Sunset Boulevard.
"I hate the expression farm to table, but it's fairly accurate," Yanow said. "We have a lot of emphasis on where food comes from, and hopefully from heirloom stock. We will not serve things that we have to ship from overseas."
Though Yanow isn't ready to quote any specific dish prices, the menu of salads, pizzas, casseroles and other informal items will probably hover around $10 or $12 per plate. In the kitchen is a big board with a produce schedule with a graph of months and vegetables, outlining their peak harvest times in Southern California. If all goes according to plan, Mohawk Bend will open in the first quarter of 2011. Yanow is aiming for full liquor license and said, "Mohawk is a restaurant with a great bar."
Meanwhile, Daddio joins most Echo Park locals in welcoming their new neighbor. "The more the merrier–people coming to Echo Park for nightlife is great," she said.
Mohawk Bend, a 10,000-square-foot bar and restaurant, to open in Echo Park; also on the horizon: Sunset Beer Co.
I wrote a story for Friday's Calendar section about the changing face of Echo Park nightlife. It's something that's been happening for the past 10 years but is reaching a real tipping point thanks to a couple of large-scale new projects: Mohawk Bend and Sunset Beer Co.
Mohawk Bend is under construction in the nearly 100-year-old Ramona theater on Sunset Boulevard near Alvarado (right next to Elf Cafe and across the street from City Sip). It's owned by Tony Yanow (who recently opened the popular beer-and-sausage pub, Tony's Darts Away, in Burbank) and is being built out by Kristofer Keith of Spacecraft designs.
Yanow says the 10,000-square-foot restaurant and bar will serve "farm-to-table" California fare with equal parts vegan and non-vegan offerings. The kitchen is split into two prep and cooking areas so the meat and non-meat-and-dairy worlds will never be in danger of mixing (Yanow and his wife are both vegans).
Also on the menu: 73 California craft beers. Yanow pledges to support California businesses, so all his wine is from California, and all his spirits as well. To that end, drinkers will see some unusual offerings such as liquor from Charbay, which is on the border of Sonoma.
The space itself had been vacant for 26 years and was totally destroyed. Keith, who has designed many Hollywood hot spots -- including BoHo, Te'kila and Essex Public House -- is giving it "a very industrial vibe, like something you'd find in the warehouse district in New York."
"There's a lot of exposed brick. The restaurant and bar are in the middle of the space and as you move toward the back we're creating an indoor patio with a 4-foot-wide fireplace," Keith says. "There is also a big wall of warehouse windows as separation -- then we put in 15 skylights and big trees in back so it's very lush."
As an added bonus, there will be a front patio along Sunset Boulevard, and Yanow has plans to stay open serving both food and alcohol until 2 a.m.
If all goes according to schedule with inspections and permits, Mohawk Bend will open in February.
Also on the horizon for the swiftly changing neighborhood: Sunset Beer Co., a craft beer store with plans to operate a tasting room and stock more than 1,000 bottles of beer (which would make it one of the largest craft beer stores in L.A.). Eastsider L.A. got the scoop, read more here.
Once a month, Paige Reilly climbs into her station wagon and circuits Southern California, collecting kegs from small-batch brewers, and delivering them to Tony’s Darts Away, the all-California craft beer bar she manages in Burbank. The adventurous beer advocate plans to continue her monthly circuit when owner Tony Yanow’s latest venture, Mohawk Bend, opens in Echo Park next month (Reilly will manage both locations). But when that time rolls around, her trusty station wagon will give way to a U-Haul truck, because Mohawk Bend will boast 72 taps -- twice as many as Tony’s Darts Away.
Last year, Yanow, a thirty-something Canadian yo-yo champion, Deadhead, environmentalist and entrepreneur, took Reilly on a two-week craft beer odyssey up and down the California coast in his all-electric Tesla Roadster. The breweries they visited formed the backbone of the tap lists for both of Yanow's bars. Reilly continues to build upon the knowledge she gathered throughout the journey, phoning contacts and scouring the Internet for the latest news on California’s ever-growing craft beer scene.
One of her recent discoveries is Mother Earth Brew Company -- a tiny operation located three miles north of Vista’s Green Flash Brewing Company, and forty miles north of Downtown San Diego. Mother Earth is one of those fledgling craft breweries that doesn’t produce enough beer for regular distribution, yet their brews have already found their way onto Tony’s tap list at Darts Away -- and soon will be sipped at Mohawk Bend -- thanks to Reilly’s detective work and monthly road trips.
In less than a year, Tony’s Darts Away has developed a reputation as the place to find beers from budding and little-known California breweries that aren’t available anywhere else. And they intend to carry that tradition to Mohawk Bend, “continually debuting new breweries” just as an art gallery debuts new artists (Mohawk Bend will also showcase the work of local artists, and serve as a venue for local musicians). In that way, Reilly thinks of herself more as a curator than general manager -- a term that makes her cringe.
But not all 72 taps at Mohawk Bend will be devoted to new brews. Reilly says the 10,000 square foot space will host 30 permanent taps and 40 rotating taps (the other two will be casks). So those who lust after new brews can drink their fill, while those who crave familiarity can find that, too. Reilly thinks 70 rotating taps would prove overwhelming to the average consumer, and create a logistical nightmare for herself. 40 rotating taps will be much more manageable.
But beer, art, and music aren’t the only things in store for Mohawk Bend. Reilly promises an “incredible farm to table dining experience,” with a hyper-seasonal menu that will be “60% vegan, 80% vegetarian, and 100% delicious”. The bar will also include an array of Californian spirits, and a cocktail menu as dynamic as the dinner menu. Mohawk Bend will thus share much of the same philosophical underpinnings as its predecessor, but on a grander scale, and with the Burbank bar’s cozy retro basement appeal translated to Echo Park’s postindustrial chic.