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Ford has a better idea

Ben, son of actor Harrison, opens a gastro-pub (think comfort food) in Culver City. Fill 'er up.

March 02, 2006|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

BEN FORD, son of Harrison and nothing to do with Henry, is grooving with a gastro-pub with the clever moniker Ford's Filling Station. Fill 'er up right on Culver Boulevard, in the heart of historic Culver City.

Like Chadwick, Ford's previous restaurant, it has a seasonal menu with an emphasis on organic produce and sustainable farming. But unlike that gourmet hothouse, Ford's Filling Station is comfy and casual.

The loft-like space features two rustic iron wood-burning ovens at the very back in full view of the dining room. The tables and the bar at the front are made of dark wood so smooth and satiny you can't resist running your hands over the surface. Oriental carpets are flung underfoot. Tables for two are set along a banquette so that couples can sit side by side. Nobody has to stare at the wall.

If you're pondering the meaning of "gastro-pub," I can only say that it's a British term for a pub with grub on the comfort side of the gourmet spectrum. And judging from the hungry folks crowding into the restaurant a week after it opened, it's clear Ford is onto something.

The menu is strictly seasonal, and it changes frequently depending on what chef Ford rustles up from his suppliers. First of all, there are cured meats, or salumi, from Mario Batali's dad, Armandino, hand-crafted in Seattle. Choose three of maybe six items. They come served on a board with a basket of mini-baguettes that are warm and delicious.

The wood-burning oven (which, on the night I was there, was operating by gas because the city hadn't yet signed off on it) turns out a couple of flatbreads each night, such as the one topped with grilled white shrimp with white bean hummus, or a four-cheese extravaganza.

One of these babies, together with a butter leaf lettuce salad with shaved egg and bacon-sherry vinaigrette, could easily be supper. The beautiful thing is all of the main courses are less than $25. That includes a crispy flattened chicken served with a fine roasted corn succotash for $18 and brook trout with baby broccoli and hedgehog mushrooms for $22.

Desserts are killer: a butterscotch pudding with whipped cream and pecans and a pear buckle, a delectable sort of cobbler, with Meyer lemon cream.

With an outdoor patio, a savvy menu and wine list, Ford's Filling Station already has a line at the door. And why not? It's a smart concept: everyday food in a restaurant as easy and as comfortable as a pair of jeans.

*

Ford's Filling Station

Where: 9531 Culver Blvd., Culver City

When: Dinner, 6 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Full bar. Valet parking. Parking in public lot around the corner.

Cost: Appetizers, $7 to $13; main courses, $14 to $24; desserts, $7

Info: (310) 202-1470

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