Le District, a French food hall in Brookfield Place — originally the World Financial Center — is unfortunately easy to miss, quietly tucked in a corner with distractions in every other direction, but its charms and tastes make it worth the effort in finding.
One day in the fall of 2001, I was able to look for the first time across the rubble, still smoldering, of the destroyed World Trade Center’s north tower, and discover that — improbably — the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center, directly between the doomed building and the Hudson, survived.
I worked in the area, had been in and out of the World Trade Center many times, for business as well as pleasure, but the Winter Garden with its high dome of glass ceiling, indoor palms, monumental steps and views of the harbor outside, had been a favorite.
That it remained while so much around it was gone was a small consolation, but in those days downtown, it was literally the only consolation.
Over the next decade and a half as the new World Trade Center was built and tourist draws like the sprawling Oculus shopping mall and the 911 Memorial tied in with a previously chaotic transit hub connecting multiple subway lines and PATH trains, the Winter Garden evolved as the centerpiece of Brookfield Place, easily accessed by a weatherproofed walkway from the Oculus and transit hub or from the walkway of Hudson River Park passing in front.
It’s clean and neat and visually thrilling as the transparent ceiling still allows the saturation of natural light where upgraded stores and restaurants split off in each direction.
The beautiful array of macaroons, previously spread out in pick and go bins, is now attended by employees who help you pack your treats for travel or immediate gratification.
We’ve always bought them for gifts when we travel, a piece of New York City with a genuine French twist.
When you’re in New York, you walk. Then, you walk some more.
Ice cream at Le District cools a hot afternoon.
Get recharged with Le District’s expansive Coffee Happy Hour.
The French know their baked goods and fruits, and both are in plentiful supply.
My problem is making a choice, since realistically you can’t eat one of each.
You can sit in or take your food on an escalator ride upstairs to the scenic food court that looks out across the common area to the Hudson and Jersey City on the far side.
In nice weather, you can find a place outside where sea breezes sweeping up from New York Harbor moderate even the hottest July afternoon.
Let District is harder to find than you’d think.
Before we walked into the market the first time, my wife and a friend wandered unsuccessfully through Battery Park, unable to locate a single sign and aided, such as it was, by directions from NYPD officers.
So, here’s what you do.
Follow the signs from the Oculus and the World Trade Center transit hub for Brookfield Place. You’ll enter on the first floor of the Winter Garden. Hang a left around the steps and head for the water. Just before you hit the glass wall, stop and look to your left: Le District.
Alternatively, if you arrive at the Winter Garden by way of a walk through Hudson River Park or Battery Park City, take a right turn as soon as you enter and walk straight into the pleasures of Le District.
Then, make the most of this French twist on New York City.