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A sneak peek at Echo Park's Mohawk Bend

May 10, 2011 |  6:00 am

Watching the transformation of the nearly 100-year-old Ramona theater at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado, into a large restaurant and bar called Mohawk Bend, has become a bit of a neighborhood pastime in Echo Park.

Owner Tony Yanow, who also owns the popular sausage-and-beer bar Tony's Darts Away in Burbank, is no longer speculating about an opening date. But hopes are high for an early-to-mid summer debut. However, as Yanow works out the permitting details with the city, the restaurant is coming together in a pretty stunning way.

TapBeers I recently took a tour of the place with Yanow and his general manager Paige Reilly, and was impressed by the soaring wood-beamed ceilings, original exposed brick and extensive ironwork. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant is segmented into four main areas, with the hopes of creating a greater sense of intimacy than you'd expect from a space that size.

The first is a covered front patio that faces Sunset, the next is a secondary dining area called "the quad," which will be filled with attractive wooden booths. Then there's the bar area, which is flanked by an open kitchen and the bar itself. The main dining area is called the Ramona Room and features a giant glass mosaic wall, crawling vines, skylights and a huge fireplace.

WoodStoneThe kitchen will crank out equal amounts of vegan and non-vegan fare, with each type of cooking kept strictly separate -- different prep tables and coolers are even employed for the vegan food.

For the pizzas? A massive Wood Stone pizza deck, which Yanow and his chefs Randal St. Clair and Sera Pelle call "the Cadillac of pizza ovens." It's an impressively heavy piece of equipment that Yanow says cost more to transport from the curb to the kitchen than it did to ship to L.A. from the factory in Washington state.

The pizza menu is long with pies including Holy Trinity (tomato sauce, basil, fresh mozzarella or vegan mozzarella); Salad Daze (avocado, lemon-dressed lettuces, zucchini, caramelized onion, aoili); and Bitter & Twisted (rapini, lemon zest, garlic, chili flakes and anchovies--or not) leading a list packed with farm-fresh veggies and housemade meats.

MohawkSign2 Also on the menu? Herbed flatbreads; Linder Ranch bison meatball cazuelas; Carlsbad mussels; Pacific clams; vegan and non-vegan burgers (one non-vegan burger is called the Dork burger because it is made with a mixture of duck and pork); fish and chips; squash and chips; and much more.

Sample these offerings with one of the more than 65 California craft beers on tap (five beers will be made by out-of-state brewers each month); or a cocktail mixed using one of 100 bottles of craft spirits made exclusively in-state. Curating this last list was no small feat for bar manager Keith Taylor, who combed California to come up with what he needed to create a quality cocktail list while hewing to the restaurant's locally sourced philosophy.

Stay tuned to the Daily Dish for more updates as Mohawk Bend develops.

--Jessica Gelt

Photos: From top, Tony Yanow walks through the Ramona Room toward the bar in Mohawk Bend; the taps that will serve over 65 California craft beers; the Wood Stone pizza oven in the kitchen; the exterior sign on Sunset Blvd. Credit: Kat Nguyen