Any season in Noyac is like a trip back in time, to a place where the Hamptons was an undiscovered wilderness of scrub pine and oak, windswept, by the edge of the sea, a respite from the disease of modern urban life.
It was the middle of my first cold, snowy winter in Sag Harbor when I stumbled into Cromer’s Market and ordered my first fried chicken dinner. You see, the fried chicken dinner at Cromer’s Market is famous.
It’s simple, really: Two crispy pieces of dark meat, stick-to-your-ribs macaroni and cheese and somewhat cardboardy mashed potatoes, drenched in enough gravy that you’ll eat them all anyway. At least that’s the way I ordered it. I’m a simple person. You can get fancy with your side orders and white meat and all that stuff, but I don’t.
Cromer’s Market, along a busy stretch of Noyac Road that was quite treacherous until the road was recently reconfigured (you might still think it’s treacherous. All new things are treacherous), is just around the corner from Long Beach.
My first winter there, the Salty Dog was still on the corner of Noyac Road and Long Beach Road. The speed limit on Long Beach Road was still 55 miles per hour, but our state assemblyman, Fred Thiele, soon had it reduced to 40 miles per hour because people were using it as a drag strip.
At the time, Sag Harbor Express editor Bryan Boyhan was none-too-pleased. He got the assemblyman on the horn and asked him where the heck he was supposed to open up the throttle and blow the carbon out of his engine in the Sag Harbor area. Sag Harbor was trapped back in time then too.
But Bryan was joking, and that was a long time ago, back when I was a kid with a styrofoam box of fried chicken, alone in the big world in my old Chevy Cavalier, watching the cold waves crash in along the Long Beach shore, with the car heater fan blasting and the sound of the cold gulls, who were plastered to the wind above my car. The next day, the bay would ice over, and that wild, wild scene would be frozen in time.
Cromer’s is also frozen in time. In a world of constant change, it’s still the same place it was ten years ago, twenty years ago, maybe more. It’s a meat place, and they have damn fine meat and damn fine lunch specials. But they’re also the supermarket, the deli, and the hub for the people who call Noyac home.
After a long, sweaty day polishing stainless steel boat railings and varnishing toe rails at the Sag Harbor Yacht Club, yes ma’am-ing all the women in their tennis whites, who give you your marching orders in the early morning before heading off to wherever such women head off too, you can grab yourself some fried chicken at Cromer’s, and head down to Trout Pond. If you’re lucky, the pond is just a few blocks from your home. I was that kind of lucky for a whole bunch of years.
Throw yourself in the water. Be careful you don’t drown. People drown swimming in Trout Pond, after a long hot day working on the salt water shore. I think it’s because their bodies had believed they were more buoyant after spending all day near the sea. But I don’t really know any of this. It’s all conjecture. Your mind does awful things to you when you spend your days in servitude.
Come out of the pond and dry off your head. Eat your fried chicken and lean back on the dock. Listen to the early evening noises and peer through the thick woods. Forget the ocean and the crowds. This is what you came here for: to work and live, to feel the scabs and callouses and to know that you are really alive. This is Noyac.
3500 Noyac Rd, Sag Harbor, NY 11963