Soulful food

Ben Ford wants you to sit down and stay awhile
Norman Kolpas
Please excuse Ben Ford if he's still shaking off some jet lag. Since last June, the 39-year-old has been refining the concept for his much-anticipated Ford's Filling Station in downtown Culver City ― by flying back and forth to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

But wait a minute. Why would a hot culinary entrepreneur ― one who trained under Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, won three-star kudos at his now-shuttered Chadwick in Beverly Hills, and carries Hollywood appeal (he's Harrison Ford's son) ― test a concept in Oklahoma before bringing it to L.A., trend central?

"I've always wanted to have a restaurant someplace that was real and approachable and human," Ford says. He was drawn to Culver City, a resurgent Westside community just south of Beverly Hills, settling on a vintage 1930s building as his site. Only then did he head for Tulsa, which has a similar demographic in terms of breadth of tastes.

Ford aims to serve "soulful meals centered around simple ingredients," like split-pea soup with ham hock, smoked pork chops with braised cabbage, and flatbread made in a wood-burning oven. And he has strived to make the place feel like a gathering spot that's been around a good long time. The walls will be decorated with family photos. And he's leaving 30 seats permanently unreserved. "People can play chess, order a drink, read a newspaper. I've built this restaurant to about 80 percent of what I want it to be. Then I'm going to let the people dictate the rest."

Info: Ford's Filling Station ($$$; call for hours; 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City; 310/202-1470)