A Margot Robbie antihero and Ingo’s Tasty Diner reboot 20th-century cool

By Angela Matano

Ingo’s has a retro-futurist vibe that’s totally 2018

As the 20th century recedes into the rearview mirror at a frightening pace, some of its trappings remain, however anachronistically. Neon, cigarette smoke, diners, siren-red lips and Venetian blinds all have one foot firmly planted in the past while maintaining a provocative stiletto in the present.

“Terminal,” a neo-noir starring girl-of-the-moment Margot Robbie, tells a twisty tale of hitmen and revenge in an anonymous city of a dystopian future. The movie feels a bit like “Amelie” crossed with “Blade Runner” dipped in Candy Crush, with loads of textural references, from “Alice in Wonderland” to “Third Man” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (R.I.P. Milos Forman).

Director Vaughn Stein (with cinematographer Christopher Ross and production designer Richard Bullock) clearly loves cinema and revels in the gorgeous, creepy corridors and platforms found in the decrepit train station that houses much of the action in “Terminal” — the actual station is in Budapest, but feels otherworldly. Steeped in American iconography, “Terminal” plays with people’s presumptions based on class and gender, uniquely positioning this film in this post-#MeToo era (or are we post yet?).

“I have an unquenchable bloodlust for darkness and depravity,” says Margot Robbie’s waitress, Annie, in the film. With women playing more anti-heroines and badasses than ever before (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Thoroughbreds,” “Tomb Raider,” “Wonder Woman,” “Red Sparrow,” “Black Panther,” “Annihilation”), the future, if not very peaceful, is at least looking more equitable.

The ability to bring a fresh perspective to an old standby serves both film and food. A little tweak turns donuts into cronuts, tacos into tostadas, and diners into, well, Modern American Cuisine.

That brings us to Ingo’s Tasty Diner on Wilshire Boulevard, which replaced the ancient (and, truth be told, musty) Callahan’s (but I still adored it!). While keeping the spirit of the original restaurant with booth seating, a long counter and cozy food, Ingo’s kicks the diner firmly into our new century: stylish yet comfortable.

The menu trumpets fresher, more exotic food without taking things too far. Cheeseburgers, prime rib and deviled eggs somehow make sense sitting alongside stinging nettle toast and spiced red lentils, while burgers come augmented with aioli and the eggs with goat cheese.

One giant improvement in this new iteration is the addition of a full bar. At this point in our National Timeline, drinks are a must. Like the food menu, the cocktail list celebrates the past while dragging it into the present. Gimlets and old fashioneds make an appearance, but gussied up with basil, kaffir lime and hand cut ice. Green chile vodka and blood orange coexist with Arnold Palmers and Old Forrester Bourbon, the seamless harmony of ingredients doubling the pleasure of the concoction.

Desserts factor big time in diner life, and Ingo’s doesn’t drop the ball. The banana cream pie comes in a graham cracker crust and topped with shaved Callebaut chocolate. Gelato,
with a vegan option, comes via Grateful Spoon.

Come for the menu, stay for the jazz. While not typically diner-ish, the jazz Sunday brunch at Ingo’s will make you wonder, “why in the heck not?” With an emphasis on West Coast Jazz, the Ray Mehlbaum Quartet plays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving you time to fuel up and mellow out.

Sometimes the shock of the new is difficult to accept, no matter how seductive. I keep telling myself that if I insist on staying in the city I was born in, living in the house I grew up in, I can’t be a hater about every change. The future is only going in one direction, right?

 

“Terminal” is showing at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center in Santa Monica.

 

Ingo’s Tasty Diner is at
1213 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 395-4646; ingostastydiner.com

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