A local hangout crushing it with creative takes on comfort food and cocktails

By Grace Jidoun

Though a larger-than-life mural of legendary and sorely missed food critic Jonathan Gold graces the front of this unassuming spot, if you’re just walking by the sleepy corner of Montana Avenue and Sixteenth Street, you’d have little idea about all that goes on behind the glass façade here. A quick scan of the menu reveals the kind of lineup you might expect from a typical local hangout: small plates, salads, sandwiches, burgers, surf or turf entrees. But look more carefully and things get interesting fast.

Mark Verge, the Santa Monica native opened Margo's a few years ago to honor his mother, the restaurant’s namesake, who often swings by for the wildly popular brunch, offered daily with bottomless mimosas.

Verge has a penchant for speakeasy style and elevated comfort food—he is also a partner in The Varnish and Neal Fraser’s Fritzi, among others—shines through here.

Take the beef tartare, for instance (yes, there’s beef tartare). Tenderloin is seasoned with leek ash, aleppo pepper, and charred jalapeño, then paired with a salt-cured egg dusted with breadcrumbs. Another dish that reveals a spark of brilliance, the grilled octopus is masterfully done, drizzled with chorizo oil and served atop squash puree and roasted heirloom carrots. The baked cheese bread is a puff of pungent-sweet deliciousness, showcasing no less than four melted cheeses and drizzled with local honeycomb. And these are just the small plates.
An inspired Amaro cocktail menu is the perfect excuse to cool your heels in the tiny bar before lunch or dinner. Even classic cocktails flaunt fresh cucumber juice, lavender sugar rims, and other intriguing flourishes.

The entrees also fall into the “classics with a twist” category. Moules frites is given a light, spicy treatment with coconut green curry and cilantro. A beautifully seared pork chop gets a pleasing crunch from hazelnuts and crispy Brussels sprouts. And the meaty black cod is bathed in a miso broth so good you’ll want to drink it with a spoon—which is thankfully provided.

Chef Ludben Argueta plans to introduce some more surprises and small tweaks to the menu (hint: more seafood) over the next few months, giving the loyal following all the more reason to keep coming back. As if Margo’s homemade chocolate bar weren’t reason enough.


Mon–Thu 11 AM–10 PM; Fri 11 AM–11 PM; Sat 9 AM–11 PM; Sun 9 AM–10 PM

price range

$18 (pesto bucatini) to $35 (Angus NY strip)