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EchoParkOnline was lucky enough to be able and sit down with Owner, Tony Yanow and Executive Chef, Randal St. Claire of the soon to be open -and very awesome- Mohawk Bend.
EPO: Hi Tony it’s great to meet you. Can you tell us a little about your concept for Mohawk Bend? What has been your inspiration for this project?
TY: Sure, with Mohawk Bend, I am trying to create is a community restaurant and bar. One of the things that I am really inspired by is traditional pubs. I recently went to England specifically for that reason. During the day they are family friendly with kids running around and in evening people come as groups or come alone and hang out. We do a good job of fostering and nurturing that environment at our sister location,Tony's Darts Away in Burbank. There are days you’ll see strollers pulled up outside while Moms are enjoying lunch and nights when it is busy and filled with people eating and drinking beer. In Echo Park there are a lot of fun places to go but none quite like this yet.
The far as the inspiration behind the food goes, I’ve been really inspired by our Executive Chefs Randy and Sera. They are putting together an incredible menu and it’s really fun to watch them collaborate on these amazing ideas. My wife and I eat a plant based diet and hat we have been really successful with in Tony's Darts Away in Burbank is that ½ of our menu is vegan. What’s interesting is that very few places specialize in both vegan and non-vegan and we do that. Most of my friends like meat or are vegetarian and if we go out to eat they don’t want to go to a vegan place and I don’t want to go to a steakhouse or burger joint, but we still want to hang out, so in this concept, I like to think that we feed everybody. It warms my heart when people come up to me and say “Thank you, my wife is vegan and it’s usually such a struggle to go out for a meal together.”
EPO: So why Echo Park? Was there something specific that drew you to this neighborhood?
TY: I love this area, it’s quickly changing- which has both its positives and its negatives and I have come here to be a part of the change and be respectful of the vibe that’s already here. Mohawk Bend is not going to be fancy and it’s not going to be slummy- it’s going to be a place that is nice and affordable to everyone. We get a lot of credit in Burbank for the price point of our beer and were keeping all the same price points here. People at Tony’s Darts Away know us as having the best beer prices in LA County! Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park are my neighborhoods. Those are the areas I use most. My friends are mostly there and so are the businesses that I frequent the most.
EPO: Tell me about your design concept?
TY: The restaurant and bar will be divided into four distinct sections and certain sections will be opened or closed depending on the traffic and time of day. When I first talked to the landlord I only wanted to rent ½ of the original space because I thought it was to big, but ultimately we made the decision to split it up and give it an overall great feel. After we put in the large kitchen the rest of the space fell just into place.
EPO: This used to be the old Romona Theater, tell us about that.
TY: Well the building was first occupied in 1913 when it was a vaudeville theater. We found some bricks that are over 100 years old and the space has been vacant for over 24 years except for the rats, roaches and pigeons that called it home.
EPO: How was it working with the Space Craft Group?
TY: They are really great and creative with a strong vision. I have been happy with every one of Kris’s ideas.
EPO: Tell us more about your food. What is your Farm-To-Table concept? What impact is it that you want the food to have?
RSC: Well prior to this I worked for an organic farm, I have a chef background and I’ve worked for several farmers markets so I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many people in that world. For example, now my former coworkers are going to be my suppliers. So were really going to walk the walk. Sera, the other chef is planting an urban farm in Los Feliz, which consists of all heirloom and organic produce. I have been taking her my own organic trimmings for a year now which we’ve made into compost for her farm so were really completing the circle there. It’s going to be quite exciting when we get our first tomatoes from that compost grown on her farm. The menu is going to be 75%-85% vegetarian (60% of that being vegan) the remaining proteins on the menu are all going to be from small farms that share our philosophy. For example a local woman will be making our bacon in small batches and all are seafood is recommended and on the Monterrey Bay aquarium approved list. We also use 100% organic CA flour, the vegetables in our sauces are 100% organic and CA grown and from farms with good farming practices.
I would like people to come and realize after the fact that they had a vegan meal. One of the fun things about our menu is unlike many places where they may indicate a “V” for vegan, our menu is going to be turned on its head and you well be notified when you are not choosing a vegan menu item.
TY: I want to add to what Randal said. We are making a really big commitment to California. I love living in CA. It’s a shame that we are living in a broken State. What we found is we can get pretty much everything we need in CA. It’s not that hard to take the extra effort and find it organic and in CA were doing that in the kitchen as much as we possibly can for example there are a couple vegan cheeses that were not available in CA but everything that was- we are getting in CA and that extends to the bar as well.
We have a very interesting spirit program – 100% of our cocktails are made in CA owned by CA companies- to our knowledge this have never been done before. We think this is an amazing way to showcase what is available in CA. Keith, the bar manager and I have been traveling around the State to different distilleries to understand how we can utilize what they have to offer. The wine and beer will be only from CA. We practice bottle free beer and wine. All of our beer and wine comes to us in kegs, which means a zero waste factor. We do the same thing at my other location in Tony's Darts Away in Burbank and we have been dubbed “The First Bottle Free Bar” it’s pretty cool! Our goal is to be as waste free as possible.
I believe California is unique in that we can take this approach and be able to successfully execute our vision. Additionally we are going to feature one out-of-state brewery a month as a way to support our amazing neighbors. What we are doing has caught the attention of many out-of-state brewers and we like finding a way to support them as well.
EPO: Tony, now tell us a little about you. Have you always live in Los Angeles or are you a transplant like a lot of us?
TY: I’ve been in LA almost 14 years. I am originally from Canada, I moved down here from Vancouver and I am now a US citizen.
EPO: Can you describe yourself to us?
TY: I am a father, a husband and a craft beer enthusiast- in that order.
EPO: When will Mohawk Bend be open?
TY: Don’t ask me that! No I’m kidding. We thought we would already be open but these things always take time, we are hoping for the end of March.
EPO: What about parking?
TY: Ample valet parking will be available for $3.00.
EPO: Will you take reservations?
TY: Yes, we have a dining room that takes reservations as well as a seated are that will accommodate any overflow where people can sit and order food at.
EPO: Are you hiring?
TY: Yes we are. You can go to mohawk.la - click on tab at bottom, pick you area of expertise and your email will be directed to the appropriate person.
EPO: Lastly, we thank you for taking the time to meet and chat with us, is there anything you’d like to add?
TY: Thank you, we appreciate you wanting to get our message out. Sadly, we have faced some opposition from a few neighbors as well as suffered the brunt of some inaccurate blogging. It’s upsetting that people don’t take the time time to check the facts before they just put stuff out there. We are bringing something nice and good to the neighborhood and while it may not please everybody, it’s a huge improvement over a vacant trashed theater. If you examine our track record with Tony’s Darts Away, we are well respected in Burbank. The mayor of Burbank wrote us a recommendation to the people of Echo Park commending us for providing a community center for the people of Burbank. I welled up when I read the letter, it was touching.
You can learn more about the Mohawk Bend here:
Echo Park Patch
Echo Park Now
The Eastsider LA
You can Facebook Fan the Mohawk Bend here.
**Per the request of Tony, no pictures were taken of the space, however there is one super secret low res shot that was approved and can be found in our photos area!**