A Hamburger Today
Daily Slice: Mohawk Bend, Los Angeles
Daily Slice gives a quick snapshot each weekday of a different slice or pie that the folks at the Serious Eats empire have enjoyed lately.
Tired of imported Caputo flour and DOP San Marzano tomatoes? Of course not. But when Angelenos hunger for food a little close to home, Echo Park's Mohawk Bend delivers. The kitchen is full of state pride—all their ingredients are sourced from California vendors. The gastropub dominates this stretch of Sunset Blvd, situated in the century old Ramona Vaudville Theater. The skylit dining room soars towards the stars with light dappling through the indoor trees and grazing the raw brick walls. With over 72 craft beers on tap, an open kitchen with a Woodstone oven, and separate vegan and non-vegan prep areas, owner Tony Yanow (of successful Tony's Darts Away in Burbank) balances food and beer with hipsters and a hour wait for a table.
We tried almost every pizza on the menu and the clear favorite is the Pig Newton ($14). The mild saltiness of the locally-cured Serrano ham mingles perfectly with tangy goat cheese, lightly dressed arugula and sweet fig and rosemary tapenade. The chew of the ham, the creaminess of the cheese, and the crackle of the fig seeds turns each bite into a texturally layered experience. A few pieces of ham were slightly tough, but overall these dynamic flavors—sweet,salty,milky,bitter—marry together perfectly.
The other favorite is the Salad Daze ($14). Though it appears the lemon-dressed romaine and avocados dominate this pizza, it's the hidden layer of zucchini, caramelized onion and aioli that shines. The sweet caramel brown onions are flawless—all sugar no crunch. The need for cheese is supplanted by the creaminess of the Hass avocado and aioli, you're won't miss it at all.
Reading over the menu, the flatbreads and pizzas are clearly the highlight. When it comes to toppings, Mohawk Bend gets it right... but when it comes to the crust, even a non-pizzaphile isn't going to be fooled. I applaud the kitchen's dedication to California 00 flour and regional tomatoes, but the unremarkable crust is nothing more than a solid topping delivery system. Pliable but not doughy, neither chewy or dry—this crust is (dare I say) akin to a frozen pie. Mohawk Bend is clearly competent with toppings and the pizzas are totally serviceable with a pint or two or five; but at these prices, the crust should be spot on.
If you want "pizza with beer" on the Eastside, you're better off at nearby Mother Dough or Urbano Pizza Bar. But if you want "beer with pizza," few gastropubs in Los Angeles are doing that better then Mohawk Bend.