New York City has some great markets, but my favorites are the indoor markets made of foodies’ dreams. Yes, I’m talking about places like Chelsea Market and Eataly. Now, in lower Manhattan, the French themed market, Le District, is on the scene.
Le District, a 30,000-square-foot indoor marketplace, is located in Brookfield Place in the Battery Park section of lower Manhattan. Brookfield Place is a towering waterfront office building on the Hudson River directly across the street from the 9/11 Memorial Museum and the new large NJ Path transit station at the World Trade Center. Once inside Brookfield Place, you’ll easily spot the entrance to Le District right off the Winter Garden, a 10-story glass-vaulted pavilion surrounded by a few high-end designer shops.
When you enter Le District, you’ll immediately take notice that this place is more about the food and less about the décor. This is no French knockoff of Eataly. With its white walls, black accents, and neon lighting, it doesn’t exude any colorful charm that you might expect of a Parisian café or shop or the inviting warmth of a French country home. The closest thing you’ll find to those images of France is the candy shop, La Cure Gourmande. Thanks to the colorful packaging that fills the tall floor-to-ceiling shelves of this French chain store’s goods, there’s a little bit of color at Le District. I, personally, was thrilled to see this import, as it’s one of my favorite candy shops in the world, and you can read more about it here.
Le District has four designated districts: restaurant, market, garden, and café. Although it encompasses a large space, it is actually very organized and manageable. The café section is a small area at the entrance from the Winter Garden. It includes a coffee stand, a colorful candy shop, a dessert bar with beautiful French pastries and cakes, and a small crepe and waffle station.
As you make your way into the market, you’ll enter the general area, the Market District. Here, you’ll find all the gourmet food stations: fishmonger, cheesemonger, rotisserie, charcuterie, bakery, and butcher. There’s also a small florist in the Market District. The walls in the Market District are lined with French goods including mustards, spices, jams, and sardines.
In this small (and somewhat congested) area of the Market District, you’ll also find the casual “wine bar.” An oval shaped bar, it definitely feels more like a food counter than a wine bar. Here, you can sample a variety of goods and light meals from the gourmet food stations throughout the market.
Right next to the wine bar, you’ll find another small food counter with seating that is part of the butcher station. Here, you can order off a small menu, or you can buy a piece of meat from the butcher and have it cooked to order on the grill in front of you (for an additional $8).
Finally, you’ll arrive to at the other end of Le District where you’ll find the Garden District. This area is a large grocery store offering fresh produce, dairy, and frozen goods. It also offers a large variety of prepared foods at the deli counter as well as a salad bar that converts to a mousse bar at 4:00 PM.
I spent my afternoon grazing Le District instead of opting for a sit-down meal in the restaurant. Not having much of a sweet tooth, I opted to skip the Café District and go straight to the Market District for some savory French staples.
With chirpy French music playing throughout the marketplace (think Zou Bisou Bisou), I was “starting to get my French on.” My first stop was the wine bar. I was going to try the “Bread, Wine & Cheese” option for $14 that prompts you to “get inspired, ask your bartender.” I was informed that it only included one slice of cheese, one roll, and a glass of Riesling (which quite honestly, would have been enough for me). Instead, the bartender inspired me to buy the $22 cheese plate with a $10 glass of Rose (nice upsell, it must have been his French accent). I normally don’t eat that much cheese, but, when in France!! The artisan cheese plate included 4 different cheeses,a few pecans two dates, and two rolls with butter. The cheese selections were a nice mix of soft and hard cheeses, and the bread was warm and fresh; it was the perfect size for sharing.
I later made my way over to La Boucherie, the other food counter next to the wine bar that is part of the butcher station. Here, they grill steaks and burgers right in front of you. Be warned, you can feel the heat of the grill as you sit at the counter, and it can get a bit warm. I tried the steak frites for $19. The medium size steak was cooked perfectly, but sadly, it was over-salted. It came with an appropriate serving of fries and salad, but it was nothing special.
Le District offers some staple items from France. The walls of the Market District are lined with spices, specialty mustards, ketchups, marinades, and sardines. There are a few fresh items, as well, including butter and sausages. Finally, you can find some items for the kitchen (e.g., Le Creuset).
There’s also the delightfully French candy store, La Cure Gourmande. Here, you can find beautifully packaged lollipops, nougats, caramels, chocolate covered almonds, and filled cookies, all imported from France. La Cure Gourmande is famous for offering samples of their cookies and “chocolate olives” as you shop the store, and that holds true here at their first American store, too.
Know Before You Go
Overall, Le District doesn’t have the exciting buzz that Eataly projects. My husband and I easily spent 5 hours (and a few hundred dollars, as these mega specialty food markets are not cheap) shopping, drinking, and eating when I was at Eataly. In comparison, Le District felt more like a high end food court with generic decor and French fare. It didn’t necessarily create an inviting atmosphere that would encourage me to linger.
However, Le District is still a great destination for a quick bite and to pick up a few of your favorite French food imports. It is also a good destination for sit-down dining when you are craving French cuisine and want to enjoy dinner with a view thanks to their on-site restaurant along the Hudson River.
Also, when you leave Le District, be sure to visit the adjacent park for pretty views of the river and Jersey City. It’s the perfect place to enjoy some of the goodies you can pick up “to-go” at the Cafe District.
© 2015, Tripping Blonde.