Cooking up a different approach to signage

The marquee sign for the soon-to-open Mohawk Bend restaurant in Echo Park has attracted attention from passersby as well as several comments on The Eastsider, with readers questioning the sign’s color and design as well as the wisdom of naming the restaurant after a dangerous and deadly stretch of Sunset Boulevard.  Whatever you may think of the Mohawk Bend sign, it does get noticed, which caused a bit of a problem for the tiny vegetarian restaurant next door called Elf Cafe. Elf opened up about five-years ago and had made do without any signage on its narrow Sunset Boulevard storefront except for some lettering on the front glass door. But with the Mohawk Bend sign now looming above his front door,  Elf owner and chef Scott Zwiezen decided it was time to come up with a sign of his own. Instead of trying to out do the big and brassy like Mohawk Bend sign, Zweizen decided to go with a more humble approach. Zweizen took some time out from the kitchen to explain his sign style:

We were always content with our small door sign.  The new sign, as it were, was actually prompted by the arrival of the Mohawk Bend sign, which I feel sort of dominates the immediate vicinity.  As we are located directly under their sign, I thought it best to put up something of our own which would hopefully dispel any confusion and ideally create a sense of separate environments.  The sign itself is pretty old-fashioned. I hand lettered it with sign painter’s enamels and a gold leaf.  It’s painted onto the old flag mount style metal sign which bore the name of several boutiques and the old tv repair shop that used to be there.  The colors and the font (which was modified by Astara Calas, my partner at Elf) I wanted very much to blend in with the feel of the area, rather than scream out or be disruptive.  I don’t know that the sign has made a difference in business, but I am happy with it’s role in the look and feel of our storefront.

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  1. i love the new sign at elf. and, as much as the graphic design of the mohawk bend sign is questionable, i love that they are coming! does a restaurant that has a marquee in front have any other option than to use it (or scream out) ? maybe it was the way it was written, but the owner of elf sounded irritated by the impending opening of mohawk bend. i think they can both exist , and the neighborhood can only benefit. i would rather a clean new restaurant , than a homeless camp in front of my restaurant . maybe the owner of elf could help mohawk bend with a new logo, because the inside looks amazing in pictures.

  2. i think i would be irritated too if some outsider moved in next door and installed the graphic design equivalent of a McMansion over my front porch.

    that elf sign, if nothing else, is a lesson to the seemingly clueless owners of mohawk bend that sometimes less is more.

  3. I like that Mohawk Bend utilized the structure of the old theater space it moved into, I don’t see anything wrong with the sign. There are a lot of new restaurants over the past few years who decide not to put up a sign for whatever reason, my thought is that they think it’s cool or hip or underground not too, but I always just found it annoying. I’d drive by and think, I wonder what that place is, I wish they’d put up a sign, I guess its just another new pretentious establishment that only wants a selective customer base seen there, and I’d keep driving. And I don’t see the Mohawk Bend sign over powering it’s neighbor, put up a sign and let people know who you are, be proud!

  4. Billy B expressed my opinion of signless retail establishments perfectly. But I must differ with his acceptance of the Mohawk Bend sign. The owners missed a great opportunity (though certainly a pricier one) to adorn the marquee with neon… which of course would be cursed at even harder by the good folks at Elf.

  5. I think one of the best (worst) examples of this sign-less trend is the pho restaurant on Sunset Blvd. near Parkman that still uses the old, half-destroyed “Escrow” sign of a previous tenant. Some home-closing documents with your bowl of noodles, anyone?

  6. The logotype for the Mohawk Bend sign is downright terrible. It’s just a cheap looking typographical nightmare that has no character, charm or neighborhood integrity. I would love to think that it’s a temporary placeholder, instead I’m afraid that it’s a peek into the aesthetics of the interior. Ick.

  7. HA!! A bunch of sign snobs out here. Open your own restaurants and then you can decide on whatever font/visual asthetics you want sheesh.

  8. We weren’t trying to be “cool, hip and underground” by not having a sign Billy, just lazy. And in our defense, there has been a sign on the door for the last 5 years we’ve been open.
    Astara Calas

  9. I kind of hope that Mohawk has dishes named as a homage to its historic theatrical setting and that they are switched up on the marquee. Would love to see the “Heddy Lamar” Avacado salad starring for a week and then the “Tom Mix” steak the next. I’m sure the idea will sound too crass to some but it seems a shame to run from that great marquee rather than celebrate it!

  10. What a waste of a cinema.

  11. the build out was by spacecraft, at least was at first, because their name was on the original plywood barrier… but who knows whether they stuck around to see the thing through. if the sign IS any indication, the owner probably had his “own ideas” about the interior as well.

    INTEGRITY is the operable word here. who needs a sign if the place itself has design integrity?
    the best look would have been to do a little research and honor the history of the marquee

  12. I pretty much agree with Billy B too. I walk by those storefronts every day and I didn’t know Elf was there, even though I’ve heard lots of good things about it and been thinking I should check it out. I just never made the connection that that pretentious-looking little cafe with no signage was Elf.

    The Mohawk Bend logotype isn’t all that great, but given the monstrous and grotesque signage all up and down Sunset throughout Echo Park and Silver Lake, I have to think we wouldn’t be talking about Mohawk Bend’s sign if it wasn’t (quite literally) the new kid on the block. I mean, this strech of storefronts is across the street from a 99 cent store and a Lucy’s laundromat. It’s not like you can’t spot 5 more egregious offenders of the “neighborhood integrity” from standing directly in front of Mohawk Bend, and those places don’t have classic architectural elements worked into their signage the way Mohawk Bend does.

  13. I love ELF, applaud the addition of their tasteful sign and never have felt any pretension from the place whatsoever. I hope they enjoy many more years of success in this location.

  14. @ brian m:

    because Lucy’s and the 99 cent store bothered to rehab a derelict historic building and spent a small fortune on a Wood Stone pizza oven…


    apples and oranges dude.

  15. Man, you just can’t win in Echo Park. Change the existing structure or build something new and you’re an evil gentrifier that doesn’t understand the charm of the neighborhood’s original architecture; utilize the existing signage that’s been there far longer than the businesses next to it and you’re a bully that’s trying to overshadow your neighbors. If I ever decide to open a bar/restaurant, I can tell you where I WON’T be looking for space.

  16. mohawk bend will be a hipster frat house with yelpers and faux restaurant critics with exaggerated and un-qualified opinions about things that are often beyond them.
    elf has been, and will continue to be a loyal and familiar establishment to our neighborhood, for our neighbors and friends, etc.
    ryan’s right… apples and oranges. difference is, one place cared for and nourished the tree, the other just bought up a rundown orchard and slapped some lipstick on it… albeit real expensive lipstick with bad font!

  17. that place was an abandoned eyesore with a homeless encampment for years and years. props to those who have been fixing her up! and let’s be honest, the eyesores are all the 70’s strip malls on sunset.

  18. Hi!
    It’s me, Scott, the owner of Elf. I have met Tony and toured the new space with him. He is a very nice and sincere man and I have never wished him or his restaurant anything but good luck and success. Seems like quite a brouhaha about this sign issue. For the record, I haven’t made any aesthetic judgments about the design of Mohawk Bend or their sign, let alone cursed at them. Thank you.


    these spacecraft folk just have horrible taste. I’m no “sign snob” or a “design snob” just someone who likes a city to look as good as it can, if you go look over at “tantraz” you will see what I’m talking about. Its sad this historic theater will not home a beautiful venue for as it did before, rather another “lounge/restaurant” where your dish will be $40 a plate and the food mediocre at best.

  20. jeez, bandita, what type of strawman will Mohawk Bend NOT welcome through its doors? Place is gonna rule, based on Tony’s Darts Away (where for $40 I can get an entire meal and four beers.)

  21. suchawaste…. you are clueless.


    the space itself as it appears in these photos is, mostly, STUNNING.

    its just the utterly retarded logo and lame reincarnation of the marquee that are worthy of criticism for the glaring disconnect they create. i’m tempted to believe the design delusion is as deep as painting the marquee “international orange” in reference to the golden gate bridge.

  22. Here’s shot of what it looked like about twenty year ago:


    Nothing’s perfect, but I it looks better now.

  23. Yikes – sorry for my bad proof-reading. That was supposed to be “years” and “I think it looks better now”. Nobody’s perfect, right?

  24. @ryan

    Ok, that looks a bit better. From what I heard about a year ago this doesn’t connect to what was mentioned. The ‘glaring disconnect’ is the best way to describe the sign/interior difference. How the 2 related to the designers is beyond me. Maybe I’ll give it a shot, it does look good inside, lets just hope that doesn’t translate into $12 a pint. Also, the many beer taps makes me happy. Heres to speaking too early, and hopefully being very wrong

  25. SolanoCanyonPop

    I love Scott, Ween, and the whole Elf crew. And I’m looking forward to Mohawks Bend! Compare the main pic of this post to that Flick picture Mr. Rollers put up.

    Only hipsters complain and only hipsters hate hipsters!

  26. In addition to my previous comment, I also agree with hb, that would have been a perfect spot to restore as a cinema. How great would a movie theater like the Vista be in our very own Echo Park?

  27. @ suchawaste of space
    Spacecraft didnt design tantraz, they are working on the new redesign which is currently under construction and you can therefore not judge their “Taste” in regards to Tantraz as it is not even finished. Also FYI spacecraft is a construction and interior architecture firm, not the graphic designer for Mohawk Bends logo

  28. that’s neither here nor there, rollers.

    Echo Park was run down, as were many places in Central LA, around the time of the Riots. thats why our property was worth a fraction of what it is now.

    this was a vital neighborhood when the theater was built.

    so let’s see a picture of it from about 100 years ago and we can decide when the marquee looked better.

  29. I fricken LOOOOOVE all u guys arguing about the dumb mohawk bend sign !!!

    Hahaha ! And since you are all new to the neighborhood anyway and don’t have a clue but to bitch about a sign , there are those of us whose parents actually took us to see films there as kids and don’t have to “imagine ” what it would be like to have an actual functioning theatre . Keep imagining .

    Keep arguing , and don’t forget to crucify me for growing up in the neighborhood or my long “pedigree” here .
    Imagine on …………………………..

  30. @BillyB

    iirc, the previous owner completely wiped out the theater element, including leveling the floor.

  31. @ Ryan: to tell the truth I’m not a fan of the signage, but what I was trying to point out with a visual example is how far things have come in twenty years – I wasn’t here 100 years ago.

    That space sat vacant and derelict until Tony came along, now the neighborhood is getting another dining option – one that I think will be a good addition. I don’t think mediocre signage will keep patrons away if the establishment delivers the goods, but maybe after some of the feedback here Tony will consider it a wise investment to change the sign at some point.

  32. @rollers

    my sentiments exactly.

    the moral of this thread seems to be:
    given the amount of resistance you’ve bravely overcome in just being able to open your concept in this location, don’t give savvy locals who WANT YOU HERE a reason to ridicule you.

  33. Jesus… will the pizza be better than the garbage across the street? Hopefully.
    Somewhere to sit and have a nice glass of wine AND food? Hopefully.. All I give a shit about. Crying about a sign to a place that hasn’t even opened yet is so damn ridiculous.

  34. I was kinda hoping it was going to be a movie theater like the Vista in Los Feliz. Or maybe a movie theater that played films a few months old at a discount price.

  35. @tara

    cool story bro. let us know if you ever find that nice glass of wine.

  36. Ryan – the Eastsider does NOT want this place to exist. “Echo Park Life” august 2010. look it up.

  37. @ Lol and everybody else,

    Echo Park could benefit from a movie theater or a place where everyone can share an experience that isn’t just drinking booze. Now granted, the Vista in Los Feliz is hipster heavy at times depending on what movie is showing there. But who doesn’t like a movie every once in a while? And what if it didn’t cost $14 dollars to see one on the big screen? What if it was only $7 to $9?
    Most of us transplanted to ExP have no choice but to imagine what it was like to have a movie theater down the street. I imagine it was pretty awesome and I imagine it would be pretty awesome today.
    We should all give Mohawk Bend a chance, but if it fails, I hope the Vista dude take it over.

  38. hey ryan… are you cool?
    are you “cool” dude?

    cause you seem like you’re frustrated.

  39. @ local

    i’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown. hahaha

    thanks for your concern.

  40. yeah, you sure are, haha,

    but hey, maybe you’re right — who needs a sign, when you have integrity?

  41. i was gong to point this out earlier, but someone beat me to it. due to the previous owner ,any chance of this being a theater is LONG GONE. all the details were ripped out. the floor was leveled. it was literally a blank space (cement floor and drywall). someone who is willing to come in , spend a lot of money to make the space something that looks like an amazing addition to echo park should be applauded. the topic was the sign , not what could have been. it’s no longer empty , and, it’s not a swap meet , thank god. i can not wait for this place to open. i think mohawk bend and elf are both great for EP.

  42. Actually steve, the topic was an attempt to pit two local restaurants against each other – which the owners of Elf had to step in to correct. It was also about how the very name of the place is a memorial to death. Please keep it straight.

  43. a memorial to death, really? get a grip.

  44. nope. i’m pretty sure the original article is about the sign , font style used , and material used to make the sign. not that the comments that followed reflect that.

  45. No steve.

    The very first sentence of this post focuses on the wisdom of naming the restaurant after a dangerous and deadly stretch of Sunset Boulevard.

    The second sentence of the post states that the theater marquee is causing problems for Elf. The rest of the post, along with the image and title, are an attempt to describe a contrast/conflict between the two restaurants. An attempt which Elf had to correct.

    The Eastsider tried gin up a phony conflict between Echo Park business. Who knows why he’d want to do something like that? But it sure does get the comment threads jumping, doesn’t it?

    (be sure to click on the ad links!)

  46. Hey @ryan. Bro.

    Where’s your logo portfolio, dude bro?

    Totes interested!

  47. @brocal

    i’m an architect.

  48. oooh noes!
    you don’t have any graphic design experience??

  49. @ local

    i do, but not a portfolio’s worth. how about you just e-mail me if you have a specific inquiry?


  50. if you don’t got anything in public, i’m afraid we gotta pasadena…

    party on, brozilla!

  51. Did you half of all the posts made by The Eastsider involve death? It’s true!

    Most of the time, it involves an actual human corpse. But then there’s posts like this, which suggest that the name of a local restaurant is a direct reference to traffic deaths.

    The Eastsider – If it bleeds, it leads!
    (And if it doesn’t bleed, hey maybe add some blood!)

  52. @RColditz. Half are about death; the other half are about coyote attacks.

  53. I’m surprised no one has mentioned that the marquee’s colors have recently been changed – no more brick red/orange and the lettering is black on white.

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