Margo's is a new addition to Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, serving modern California-leaning small and large plates from Salt Air's former executive chef, Greg Daniels.
Another one bites the dust. Ox and Son didn't even make it to the two year mark before it closed. This spot on the corner of Montana Avenue and 16th Street in Santa Monica hasn't had a lot of staying power, with many restaurants coming in and out of here. Margo's quickly stepped into Ox and Son after, just after a few week closure.
Not a lot has changed in the small windowed restaurant. A bar gives seats to those who want to pop in for a quick bite or drink, while the dining room has fairly packed tables side by side. There's also a row of seating outside with heat lamps.
The chef is Greg Daniels, who used to be at seafood fav Salt Air. He's got a menu of small and large plates, showcasing the latest seasonal California ingredients. I always love ordering octopus and I like Daniels' take on this small plate with smokey lentils and chorizo. The lentils brought a nice savoriness that was brightened with pickled onions. Our only complaint was that we wanted more of the crunchy pickled veg. We actually asked for a side of the onions to get more sweetness in the earthy dish, and that was perfection.
There's beef tartare, hamachi crudo, baby beets and some seasonal squash dishes. We went seasonal with half of a large acorn squash, dusted with brown sugar and filled with a generous pool of Sriracha butter. It's a good dish to order for the non-vegetable lovers in the group since it was sweetly delicious. It's also listed as vegetarian and gluten free on the menu, along with about a dozen other dishes, so there's something for everyone.
You'll see all the favorite proteins on the large plate menu like salmon, snapper, halibut, pork and steak. It was the lamb saddle that had me most intrigued, and I was not disappointed. The herb crust enveloped the tender lamb that was served with a warm, fall medley of navy beans, maitake mushrooms and caramelized onions. I'm pretty sure caramelized onions make everything better, or maybe at Margo's it's the pickled onions.
What I don't see on enough menus is wild rice, but Margo's has a really nice side with it. The nutty rice is swirled with chard, almond and shaved fennel. You can also get chili bok choy or quince mustard brussels sprouts as other veggie sides.
Make sure to save room for their homemade candy bar. The crisp, toffee crust is pretty amazing. I almost asked for a doggy bag.
Margo's is a solid, neighborhood restaurant that will hopefully break the curse of the short-lived restaurant in the Montana and 15th Street space.
1534 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica