A visit, and some thoughts on the Suburban experience

Jesse Fried • Jun 14, 2017

Creskill is a wealthy suburb in Bergen County, with fancy neighborhoods built on the western slope of the Palisades and a downtown in a small valley just to the west. Right across the street from King's gourmet supermarket (a tri-state area chain) is The Peddler, a restaurant that combines a sports bar with a surprisingly stuffy, almost Westchester or Connecticut-like dining room.

The bar is a square wrap-around in the center of a large, dark room. You arrive on a Saturday night at around 9. Older couples, plus a few scattered younger people, look up as you as you walk in. Most of the seats at the bar are full, but there is very little energy in the room. The music is almost comically hideous. It's kind of like professional karaoke: the instrumental tracks are all canned and coming out of a single large speaker at an extremely loud volume and tinny tambour. There are also two live singers.

The dining room is a bit quieter. Almost completely empty except for one family quietly finishing their dinner, the room has the muffled echo of the bar's music. As it turns out, the singers are quite talented, it just takes a while to hear them through the grating metallic noise. The server, a thin young man with tattoos on his arm, is polite and friendly.

While finishing up some tasty and comforting if overpriced Chicken Parm, the vibe of Suburban emptiness takes hold. In a restaurant in New York, you might look around and feel excited that the other diners might be interesting, successful, powerful, etc. Here, however, you can almost read the disappointment - the acquiescence to humility - on the people's faces. It's funny, though: they probably have just as much money as a lot of "interesting" New Yorkers, and their own kind of success and influence. But the attitude is just different. On one hand, the Creskill folk are much more boring, and, one imagines, much more bored with their lives, than their New York counterparts. On the other hand, they excel at the virtues of realness and unpretentiousness to an extent that New Yorkers can't even conceive of.