New Santa Monica Restaurant Pays Homage to Family & Local History
Inspired by the classical chic images of Verge's mother, Margo, traveling across Europe
December 14, 2016
If you're out on Santa Monica's tree-lined Montana Avenue shopping for holiday gifts this season and looking for a bite to eat, the newly-opened Margo's may be just what's on your wish list.
The latest venture by Mark and Lani Verge of family-owned On The Verge Hospitality Group offers California cuisine with plenty of fresh twists. The restaurant opened on November 18th with acclaimed Executive Chef Greg Daniels at the helm.
Margo's - formerly Ox & Son - has a new name, new look, and new menu. It was inspired by "the classical chic images of [Mr.] Verge's mother, Margo, traveling across Europe" as well as the Verge's family history, which has deep roots in Santa Monica. A reproduction of a picture of Margo taken in the 1950s is on the back of every menu.
The layout of the restaurant is cozy and comfortable with a single long, padded velvet bench outlining a windowed wall. The look is mid-century with pleasant dim lighting. One might imagine she's out for a meal with Don Draper, save for the modern indie playlist.
Patrons are seated close to one another and the arrangement offers an intimate, if somewhat crowded setting.
An open floor plan gives guests a glimpse into the clattering kitchen as chefs prepare and plate the food. The most eye-catching furnishing, however, is the floating glass case that greets you as you enter; it not only houses a variety of liquors but craftily displays hanging wine glasses over the bar.
Margo's cocktail menu offers an extensive list of California wines, craft beers, and classic cocktails. It was constructed by Jordan Delp, drink architect formerly of Tom Bergin's Public House and Dominick's of West Hollywood. Classic drinks are offered with an update, mixing the old with the new. If you are a fan of one of the season's most popular drinks, the Moscow Mule, opt for the Cider House Mules. It's a refreshing mix of vodka, lime, and ginger beer with a splash of cider, garnished with an apple slice.
If you're in the mood for something different, order the Mcqueen of Scots. A mix of smoky mezcal, scotch, and agave is infused with Virginia pipe tobacco smoke and poured over ice. Watch the smoke dissipate before you take a sip.
Guests are offered a variety of dishes with choices of "small" and "large" plates. While the menu is meat-heavy, there are plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free alternatives for those with dietary restrictions. Chef Daniels adeptly balances the options, giving patrons choices of herb-crusted lamb served on a bed of navy beans slightly sweetened by the addition of caramelized onions, as well as lighter fare such as pickled beets and pears paired with a cloud of goat cheese foamed in a whipped cream canister.
The butternut squash soup stands out among the small plates. The silky bisque is poured over soft brioche croutons, and roasted mushrooms are added for texture. The dish is sprinkled with tiny bits of candied ginger - a surprising and welcome addition.
Some of the restaurant's most popular dishes are the halibut, lamb, and fried chicken. If you leave room for dessert, go for the croissant bread pudding. It is light and airy with ribbons of sweet dulce de leche.
Margo's is serving lunch and dinner on weekdays and weeknights along with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. Call ahead for a reservation to guarantee seating. With a varied menu of plates large and small, you may find yourself coming back to try more. One guest, who will surely return, was overheard saying on her way out: "I loved it. I loved everything."
Margo's : 1534 Montana Avenue Santa Monica, CA 90403. Social Hour 3pm - 6pm Daily
Monday - Thursday 11am - 10pm, Friday 11am - 11pm, Saturday 9am - 11pm, Sunday 9am - 10pm