Easthampton’s Apollo Grill, long piloted by chef Casey Douglass, is a wonder of space-age decor, an expansive space in the old mill building Eastworks. Put with the inviting space an inventive and tasty menu, and you have one of the clear successes of Easthampton’s renaissance of recent years.
Douglass is a restless creator of cuisine, though, and has taken his metaphor big: the force behind Apollo’s moonshot has gone galactic. The new restaurant, Galaxy, sits on the main intersection in Easthampton, in a building that used to house a watch shop and Easthampton Savings Bank’s Loan Center.
Galaxy is a much smaller space than Apollo, but its look is yet more refined. The lines are clean, the walls uncluttered, but the decidedly retro-futuristic aesthetic rules the day here, too.
“Designing it was a lot of fun,” says Douglass. “Sean McWilliams was the designer. I was very reluctant to give him much control aside from the physical layout. I wanted to handle the look of things. As we worked more together, I started to believe his vision—he understood my vision. I was able to give him the freedom to go with it.”
With the stark white that dominates one of the two main spaces and the glittery gold inset from which gleaming lights hang, you could be forgiven for feeling as if you were on the set of Kubrick’s 2001. The room housing the bar is warmer, a wood-panelled but no less swank version of mod mid-century design.
Taking on a second restaurant sounds daunting, but for Douglass, it seems like a pleasure. “I like projects, creating stuff. I’m a little bit of an artist,” he says. “I liked Main Street. We figured we would get ourselves a smaller, downtown location.”
Being in the middle of town has its advantages, he says. “We’re planning to put a patio on the front. It’s going to be fun for Art Wak and the events the city has. We’ll be able to participate. That’s tough in Eastworks—we’re sort of isolated. It will be nice to see and be seen.”
Douglass has been along for all of Easthampton’s arts and culture revival. Originally from the Boston area, he and his wife moved to town eighteen years ago. “We couldn’t really afford the city. We knew there was a nice restaurant community in Northampton,” Douglass says. “But when we couldn’t find an apartment in Northampton, we found one in Easthampton with a big, fenced backyard.”
Apollo launched 11 years ago. It was the fruition of years of restaurant work. Douglass says he learned about cooking “at the School of Hard Knocks. I started washing dishes when I was 16, then I started making salads and desserts the second year. I just worked my way up the kitchen.”
Before Apollo, Douglass worked at The Squires’ Smoke and Game Club in Haydenville and was the chef at Northampton’s Del Raye for several years.
The food at Apollo, he says, proved hard to change after a while. “People were coming in for specific things—the salmon, the purple sticky rice, or they’d say, ‘You guys have the best quesadillas.’ I wanted to have variety and change—a little bit more playful.”
At Galaxy, that sense of playfulness means the food isn’t specific to any particular cuisine. “It’s global,” Douglass says. “Galaxy is a reference to expansive, all over the place. The idea here is that it’s evolving, and that it’s going to be changing frequently. We’ve been open three months, and we only have two or three items from the original menu.”
The emphasis is on seasonal ingredients, and, thanks to shares at Mountainview Farm, some of them are even from Easthampton.
Douglass says he “wanted to accentuate the bar concept and have some small-plate concept.” The menu includes “small plates” and “medium plates,” offering diners plenty of ways to put together a meal. And all in space-age comfort.•