Les Halles was the name of the legendary market in the clamorous center of Paris where for nearly a millennium every level of society came to shop — a vibrant meeting place that epitomized the spirit of democracy and was immortalized by Zola in his classic The Belly of Paris.
Our homage to the original Les Halles has a rich history of its own, beginning with our location — the original John Street Theatre, sometimes referred to as “the birthplace of American theater. Later, during the Revolutionary War, British soldiers took refuge in this very space.
This year we celebrate our 25th year — a blip in history, but a lifetime in this industry.
We are proud of that, of course, but even prouder to know that we have provided our guests the memorable good times we set out to deliver a quarter-century ago.
Back then, the notion that a French restaurant could be a place for everyone, at every level — where you could take your jacket off, and drape it over the back of a chair — was something new in America.
But we were firm in our belief that the French cooking we grew up on is not an occasional indulgence, but rather, to paraphrase that great Francophile Thomas Jefferson, a daily necessity.
You, our valued guests, have told us that you wholeheartedly concur.
Without your warm and enthusiastic support, we would not have emerged over the past two decades as a respected and trusted brand, the first French restaurant in America to expand from our city of origin, New York, to locations across the country and around the world. (And perhaps our executive chef in the late 90s, Anthony Bourdain, would not have emerged as the world’s foremost celebrity chef and taught a generation that cooking is cool.)
For all that we thank you, from the depth of our hearts.
Our commitment to approachability and refined simplicity remains our bedrock, as does our promise to stay true to the lively spontaneity of the great Bofinger in Paris, the very model of our location in the Financial District.
But if there is one thing we have learned, it is that enduring requires adapting. To new times, new ideas, new technologies … above all, to new audiences.
Les Halles today is aiming to –progressively- be an around-the-clock restaurant, the better to meet the needs of our clock less, 24/7 culture and those of our busy Wall Street neighbors.
A quick and nourishing meal to start out the morning? Oui. But if you have more than a moment, linger a while with us at our daily brunch (yes, daily — who said waffles and mimosas are a weekend-only proposition?)
Come lunchtime, and we can get you in and out in half an hour, voila! — or we can set you up in a booth in the back and conduct business over a steak frites and a bottle of Bordeaux. Everywhere else happy hour starts at 4, but at Les Halles, the festivities (and the deals) begin at 2, every day.
Dinner remains, as ever, more than just a meal; it is an experience in time-travel, a chance to savor the spirit of the Lost Generation, of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Picasso.
And now, in an homage to that epochal age, the night at Les Halles never really ends, for we have added, yes, a second happy hour that goes from 10 until … well, until who knows when? (In Paris, the brasseries don’t close until 2. A wee bit early, if you ask us.)
We have continued to reinvent ourselves in other ways, too, with a new commitment in the kitchen that takes us full circle to our earliest inspiration — to the market halls that taught generations to savor the best, freshest, seasonal ingredients.
We stand prouder than ever in our belief that good food is not trendy or overly transformed, nor is it the province of the very few. Good food is simple food, conscientiously and smartly sourced and prepared with a minimum of fuss and a lot of care.
We have a lot to live up to, as we begin this next chapter of our history.
A lot of memories to sustain, and new ones to create.
But we are confident that you will love and cherish this new Les Halles as much as you did the old.
Until then, lose the jacket, loosen the tie, and let the party begin …