My LA to Z: Margaret Cho

The actress and comedian tells us where she goes for the best pho, fake fashions and fine art


Photograph by PixieVisionProduction

Spending months on the road touring, playing music at Austin’s SXSW music fest, and starring in the new Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva doesn’t leave much time for exploring town, but actress, comedian, and Glendale resident Margaret Cho still manages to sniff out the food, clothes, and entertainment she loves.


Santee Alley

You can get the highest-end fashion designer jeans that fell off a truck but you have to try them on in an alley. You can get high fashion stuff and a taco and a bird and contact lenses and heroin and you can buy anything you want like a fake butt and a fat gold chain and a wedding dress. I just love that the churros and the wedding dresses are so close together. On Sundays all the families go down and it’s pandemonium and you’re in Mexico City and it’s trippy and that’s when I like to go. I also like to get mangos and chile and lime on the street. The lady that sells the mangos sometimes will have turtles also, so you can get mangos or turtles for pets, they’re really small.


Dave Gardetta’s behind-the-scenes story
of Santee Alley




Pho 97, Downtown

If I’m downtown I’ll go to Pho 97 in Chinatown, it’s a really good pho place. It’s the perfect thing to get in the morning, pho and spring rolls and iced coffee. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup so you garnish it yourself. You get jalapenos and bean sprouts and Thai basil and you kinda go for it and make your own dish. It’s on Broadway in the mall that has the big Chinese superstore like a Chinese Wal-Mart. They sell ginseng and dried antlers and seahorses and upstairs lanterns and tea kettles and teacups.



Ocean Seafood, Downtown

The same complex as Pho 97 has Ocean Seafood, which is good. Empress Pavillion or Bamboo Plaza is where the white people go. Only white people would wait three hours for seafood. I like Ocean better than Empress.

Map | More Info 


Spitz, Glendale

A Döner kabob place, which is pretty rare, Americans aren’t really into it as much as Europeans. It’s meat that turns on a spit. Döner is kind of the way they shave it, and it’s really good. It’s a little like a fast-food place but it’s independent and it’s these guys from Occidental College who needed a healthy good option by their school. Middle Eastern food is my favorite. I love it and it’s why I like living in Glendale because you get the best.

Map | More Info 




Carousel, Glendale

It’s a real institution in Glendale, with the best Middle Eastern food in the world. They have belly dancers on the weekend and singers and a beautiful floorshow and it’s really marvelous with these beautiful women. I think the music is mostly Lebanese or Egyptian-style fusion. The food is definitely Lebanese.

Map | More Info 


Largo at the Coronet

It’s my main scene. I’ve been writing songs with Jon Brion, who has a Friday night show. I write songs with him and I do my own show called Fingerbang. It’s music and a little bit of comedy, like Hee-Haw, this gross show I really hate which is like a country music Laugh-In. The comedy is terrible but it’s great to watch. I really can’t believe it, it’s trashy and hilarious and gross and I wanted to do a show like that because I hate it so much.

Map | More Info 


Runyon Canyon

I don’t have any nature tendencies. I guess I used to hike in Runyon Canyon when I lived over there, we don’t have anything like that in Glendale. That was a great place to go with my dog. What’s really scary is in the summer there’s a really high population of snakes and that made me bummed out. I saw giant, giant snakes and I couldn’t really deal with it, I’m not a nature kind of person. I would rather not work out.

Map | More Info 


Billy Shire Fine Arts

It’s in Culver City. He had a Shawn Barber show—he does tattoo portraits. I’m a tattoo person, I have a lot of them. The artists I see are usually tattoo artists—their canvas is the human body. Billy has a high rotation of tattoo artists doing paintings.

Map | More Info 


High Voltage Tattoo

It’s Kat Von D’s shop, featured on that show L.A. Ink. She’s done a lot of work for me. It’s a very beautiful amazing wonderland of a shop. It’s pink and Kat’s there and she’s really cool.

Map | More Info 


Guitar Shops

Now that I have made my life about making music I’m always at the guitar shop. Truetone guitars in Santa Monica has amazing instruments. These crazy multiple string guitars, like a 9-string, a 12-string. They have 6-string banjos. It’s totally unexpected and totally beautiful. Grayson’s Tune Town in Montrose is a very unexpected place. It’s a phenomenal guitar shop and I take guitar lessons there with a bunch of 7-year-old boys. I now have a large collection and I get all my work done there. It’s very old fashioned in the same way Truetone guitars or some place like McCabe’s, which is an incredible place. These places where musicians get together and teach and learn and play and talk about music, it’s a wonderful thing and I’m happy to be a part of it now. I’ve been playing for three months and it’s an all-consuming passion. I’ve been doing music and comedy since 2003 but now I’ve just gotten really focused on playing the guitar and banjo and the craviola, which is like a 12-string Brazilian guitar. I’m obsessed with playing these instruments and having fun with them.

Images courtesy of (in order): (1) Flickr/Ikkoskinen, (2) Flickr/Avlxyz, (3) Flickr/Anita L., (4), (5), (6), (7) Flickr/Clatie K., (8), (9) Flickr/loudestnoise, (10) Flickr/Mickey G. Ottawa