There is something just so lovely about brunch. Superficially, the portmanteau has a very simple definition: a meal eaten between or instead of breakfast and lunch. But “brunch” in the United States has developed into its own culture, bringing to mind lazy weekend mornings/afternoons, gossiping with friends, a range of sweet and savory dishes designed to soothe stomachs after a rough night out, and more often than not, day drinking. Mohawk Bend, the massive, 10,000 square foot Echo Park restaurant/bar from L.A. beer godfather and restaurateur Tony Yanow, is a great place to celebrate the languid brunch culture for meat-eaters, vegetarians and even vegans.
In the light of day, the vast and beautiful interior of Mohawk Bend transitions nicely from bar to brunch spot, whether you are seated on the lounge-y front patio under the restaurant’s marquee (it used to be a theater)...
or perched at one of the red vinyl stools in front of the main bar's flat-screen TVs and a line-up of taps that appears almost endless...
or circled around a table in the absolutely stunning brick-enclosed back dining area in front of the roaring fireplace. No place in the restaurant is the immaculate design by Spacecraft more apparent.
On this sunny Saturday morning, we started with a little hair of the dog. The chipotle Bloody Mary (below, left), no joke, is one of the finest versions I've ever sampled, equal and ideal parts salty, spicy, and smoky. The frothy Pisco Sour (below, right) is a lighter option, combining Marian Farms Bio-Dynamic Pisco with fresh lemon juice, sugar, Miracle Mile Peruvian bitters & egg white. And of course, we had to order at least one of 72 beers on tap, and went with a recent favorite, the Point the Way IPA from Yanow's own Golden Road Brewing (below, middle).
While there are many dishes for the vegetarian/vegan bruncher on the menu, the Elvis French toast is not one of them. Slices of crisp bacon provide the necessary salty, meaty balance to the sweet creamy bananas sandwiched between the crunchy toast. Not decadent enough for you? Spoon on some fantastically rich (but not too-too sweet) peanut butter syrup.
Next, something vegans (and those seeking a lighter dish) can enjoy: the JJ kale, which features wilted greens seared with chile, garlic, and red onion, topped with julienned jicama. This texturally delightful and refreshing side won’t satisfy your hunger pangs on its own, but it also won’t give you a heart attack.
Another vegan-friendly (and gluten-free!) option is the scrapple, which subs in polenta and vegan sausage (as well as broccolini, rappini, spinach, onions, scallions, pasilla chiles, thyme, sage, soy milk, organic polenta, and house made veggie stock) for the traditional flour and pork scraps, and sits the loaf in a not-insignificantly spicy tomato sauce. While I'm a huge fan of pork in all its forms, anyone doubting that vegan dishes can be both hearty and flavorful would find the point difficult to argue after a bite of this dish.
At some point it our meal, it technically clicked over to afternoon, meaning we could order off the creative cocktail menu without judgment (although it doesn’t really seem like anyone at Mohawk Bend would ever judge a day drinker). Even the manliest of men would feel comfortable with the Mildred Pierce (below, left): despite its ingredients (TRU Organic Gin, FruitLab Jasmine Liqueur, agave nectar, brandied cherries, oranges & lemon, Miracle Mile Orange Bitters, and soda), it is only slightly sweet and fruity. The light, bright Thai Town Mule (below, right), with Hangar One Kaffir Lime Vodka, fresh limes, lime juice, St.Clair ginger beer & a stalk of lemongrass, is the kind of drink I want to have in my hand at all times on warm days.
As much as we were enjoying the vegan dishes, brunch just isn’t brunch without at least one egg dish. The Huevos Divorciados, with fried eggs, chilaquiles, queso fresco, crème fraiche, and red & green salsas dividing the plate, is as tasty as it is colorful, and is egg-actly (sorry) the kind of dish best suited for queasy stomachs – the thick-cut tortilla chips go a long way to soak up any lingering evil from the night before.
Our final dish was probably the most controversial of the b(r)unch. Sera’s Signature Waffles are not the sweet, dough-y treats you grew up with. Nutty and almost savory, with a slightly dense texture, I actually preferred this vegan and gluten-free dish to the more traditional version, especially when sweetened up with a little pecan syrup (maple and peanut butter syrups are also available). Mark and Aaron found it interesting, but were quite content to leggo my Eggo. But chances are that if milk, eggs and butter don't factor into your usual diet, you'll go nuts for this dish.
Mohawk Bend only started doing brunch at the beginning of the year (available on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm), but it’s already nailed the brunch aesthetic: the décor, the great food, and the extensive drink menus are perfectly suited for leisurely midday meals with friends, whether they be carnivores or herbivores, day drinkers or teetotalers. It's enough to convert anyone into a bruncher.
*Disclosure: This was a hosted meal.