Mohawk Bend, Echo Park’s new restaurant in a converted movie theater with an impressive 72 beer taps, is a great place for a drink and light meal. Appetizers and salads, as well as a nicely curated beer list, are the stars here, and the atmosphere is lively if a bit crowded. But where Mohawk Bend excels, it overreaches in other areas, especially when it comes to burgers and pizza.
The slightly puffy flatbread and an accompanying dip of mashed avocado and goat cheese was my favorite appetizer on a recent night. The bread was a little chewy, which I liked, and the avocado dip was smooth and creamy. The house ricotta with peperonata and the spicy white beans are also good dipping choices. You can get flatbread with one dip for $6 and with three dips for $12.
Mohawk’s salads are the best here. The Keenwah made with organic quinoa, shallots, herbs, arugula, haricots verts, avocado and pistachios is flavorful and satisfying with different textures, and The Local made with mixed leaves, roasted radishes and haricots verts, Capay Valley cherry tomatoes, toasted pepitas and a lemon maple vinaigrette is another palate pleaser. The Flash Gordon, with flash-grilled Little Gem lettuce, grapefruit, avocado, dill dressing, pine nuts and ume pickled onions, is another tasty concoction.
Though the salads were great, the burgers were not. The Dork burger, made with ground duck and pork topped with aioli, house ketchup, fennel, pickled onions and apple served on a house-made English muffin, was much too heavy and overwhelming, especially when served on Mohawk’s super-dense English muffin. Same goes for the Pimp burger, made with chopped pork and shrimp, ginger aioli, spicy cress and mustard greens, water chestnut relish, and peanut hoisin. Just too much going on.
The Squash & Chips, a fish and chips vegan substitute made of seltzer-battered kabocha squash, potato slices, carrots and peppers served with yuzu ponzu, is basically a big plate of vegetable tempura. That’s fine, but it was billed by the server as vegan fish and chips, so I found it a bit disappointing. And as far as pizza goes, my table ordered the Pig Newton, with Serrano ham, goat cheese, fig and rosemary tapenade, which almost immediately fell apart as the ham peeled away from the crust and fell onto my plate with a loud smack. Sigh.
I was also disappointed in the cocktail menu. The Mildred Pierce (TRU Organic Gin, FruitLab Jasmine Liqueur, agave nectar, brandied cherries, orange, lemon, Miracle Mile Orange Bitters, soda) tasted fine, but the liquor was hidden by a large amount of citrus. The New Old-Fashioned (Fog’s End Monterrey Rye, muddled orange and brandied cherry, sugar cube, Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters) was better — not shortage of liquor here — but I feel like I’ve had this drink many times before. The Absinthe Spritzer (La Sorcière Absinthe Bleue, lemon, lime, agave nectar, soda and a licorice stick) was actually not a bad drink, but the inclusion of the black licorice stick was off-putting, mostly because it was clearly the Red Vines kind (if you’re going to charge $14, at least give me a higher-quality licorice!).
However, the beer list, which rotates daily, is quite impressive. Choose brews from Pliny the Elder, Racer 5, Solidarity, Grand Cru and many other respectable breweries.
Another thing to note: all the desserts at Mohawk are vegan. I understand that there are many a vegan in the Echo Park area, but Mohawk isn’t purely a vegan restaurant, so why should all its desserts lack dairy products? The cookie cooked and served in an iron skillet, as well as the strawberry-rhubarb crostata served the same way, were both misses for me. I missed the butter too much to enjoy these. Same goes for the s’mores — gelatin-free marshmallows, butter-free graham crackers and dairy-free chocolate sauce. On this particular night, the restaurant’s freezer was on the fritz, so the Pazzo gelato that Mohawk normally carries wasn’t available. Too bad, because I could have at least enjoyed that.
There is a lot to like at Mohawk but also a lot to avoid. I hope it figures out the burger situation — there isn’t even a regular burger on the menu — and adds a non-vegan dessert to its menu because this could be a great spot for the neighborhood.
Note: This meal was hosted.