It hasn’t taken Tony Yanow much time to make his mark on the L.A. beer scene. Ever since transforming Tony’s Darts Away, an old dive bar in Burbank with a happily coincidental name, into a craft beer-intensive and vegan-friendly joint in the spring of 2010, he’s gone on to open Mohawk Bend in Echo Park and Golden Road Brewing complex in the industrial strip near the intersection of the 5 and the 134. This mostly vegan Canadian native is a Los Feliz resident and a father of three; his kids’ diets are essentially pescatarian and veg. But he’s wary of using overly pat and absolute dietary labels.
With the Metrolink/Amtrak tracks running within feet of the building, Golden Road Brewing’s bustling pub is a beer loving family’s dream restaurant. We had a total blast there last week. According to Tony, it’s typical to see children hanging on the railings at the edge of the outdoor patio/deck area to get as close a view as possible of passing trains. Yup, sounds VERY familiar. Golden Road is so convivial that even the adults cheer when a big ol’ engine rushes by. And how often do you see a kids’ menu (pasta and grilled cheese offered vegan or dairy) scrawled on a wall above a row of craft beer taps? The main drawback: no French fries. This absence was crushing for a particular five-year-old. Read Tony’s explanation about the omission, along with other insights about Mohawk Bend’s new “Summer Stroller Hours,” and how he manages his brewing and family life. It’s also obvious why he must be popular with his neighbors.
When you started your businesses, did you intend to make family-friendly places?
It never really occurred me to NOT do something that way. I have three kids and we don’t vilify beer. We joke about beer being the lifeblood of our family. We didn’t go out of our way but we assumed parents would come because we are parents and it’s something we like to do. At Golden Road, we bought three high chairs thinking we needed that many. Now we have ten because so many parents come.
Do you get complaints?
Sometimes. I understand why people are put off a bit if it’s 9:30 at night and kids are running around. But it’s not like people are coming at that hour bringing kids very often. I don’t know why kids would inconvenience anybody. We have a quote from George Orwell getting painted above the main doors at the brewery. ["The Puritanical nonsense of excluding children and therefore to some extent women from pubs has turned these places into mere boozing shops instead of the family gathering places that they ought to be."]
Where do you like to go as a family?
Right now we have 1-year-old twins, so it’s not a matter of deciding where to eat, it’s a matter of getting away from them! My nine-year-old is adaptable to different environments.
How did Summer Stroller Hours get started at Mohawk Bend?
There are so many kids in the neighborhood around Silver Lake and Echo Park; you see the moms pushing them around in strollers. As someone who does that myself, I’d rather go somewhere and have a beer than a coffee. It’s got a nice atmosphere and a contained space, and at most coffee shops you sit right on the road. So basically I was there with my wife and manager during a meeting, and we saw these moms who sat down and asked if we had anything for kids. [We thought] “Let’s build on this, let’s build a community.” There are tons of places to meet, but not to sit down and have a grown up conversation.
How do you handle the issue of beer in your family?
My 9 year-old comes to the brewery and she understand the process and that it’s not a drink for kids. But she likes the way it smells. The thing is, I drink beer but it’s rare I get drunk. If it’s not a big deal to her, it’s not to us. [We like] the custom of it, the ritual of it, and it’s part of what we do in my family. I grew up in a wine family; my family had a winery. We’d have little sips now and there. We have two taps in the house.
It’s such an all-consuming business. How do you manage your time?
A typical day for me is wake up when the babies wake up, probably around 6:30. I’m with them and alternating with my wife until they have breakfast at 9. At 9:30 the nanny arrives and I’m in the car at 9:32. Two days a week I leave at 4:00 to spend time with my 9 year-old. Then we all have dinner together four to five nights a week. The babies eat at 6, and we eat at 7. I try to make dinner for everybody one night a week, usually on Thursday. I used to cook every night but I just don’t have it in me anymore.
I’m at one of the pubs by 9:00, and I’m usually home by midnight. I’m not at every single bar every night, but I make sure one or two weeks don’t go by that I’m not at one of the bars [at least] every night of the week. I’m out five nights a week.
When I go to work in the morning I basically have an office job at the brewery. That keeps me pretty consumed until I get to do baby stuff and kids stuff. I have two meals a day with the whole family. That’s really nice. The night work is not hard work, it’s just time consuming. I’m talking to patrons or staff. A lot of times I just go in and observe and take notes. I’ll fill a shift if I have to, but that’s pretty rare.
I got in the business because I love pub culture, and I felt like this city was lacking — especially the neighborhoods I lived in. So I like to sit and be there in the patron’s position and not the owner’s position. In different parts of Canada pub culture is different than in the US. I love the concept that you have a neighborhood pub. It’s not really going out. It’s an extension of your living room.
So no French fries at Golden Road…Is that a deliberate choice?
We have a different kind of food at each place. At Tony’s we do poutine and chili fries. We leave it up to the chef, and we want to make sure we don’t have too many fried items. There’s plenty of stuff on our menu that’s unhealthy; there’s other fried stuff. One day we might have French fries.