Drain, Ore. — Although the new restaurant had technically been in town since the middle of June, it was my first time testing it out. But I was game. So I followed the Candy Land-themed signs—which promised shakes—to Drain’s own Board Game Café.
Walking into “Pair of Dice” was a transportation into a cozy, hole-in-the-wall diner, reminiscent of reprieve from a day of pounding the pavement in a much larger city—rather than a small logging town.
Yet, the warm, red interior, the Coca Cola signs, the stack of board games waiting patiently in the back, all work together toward a general feeling of accessible comfort. A set of speakers over the cooler played indie rock and pop.
Signs inside and out advertise free Wi-Fi. A projector hangs in the corner of the room.
A logger coming home from a long day would be just as at ease here as the average Portlander.
The owner, Dustin Cosby, took my order of a bacon grilled cheese sandwich and a Diet Coke and headed back to get cooking, calling back over his shoulder, “If you had brought some friends in, there are board games in the back.”
The grilled cheese was everything a grilled cheese should be—and then some. The whole wheat bread was the perfect evolution of crunchy, leading to a softer interior, the cheese was hot and oozed out of the bread in a lava tide of flavor. The addition of the crispy bacon provided a nice texture shift in the sandwich, and I found myself craving seconds. The Coke washed the sandwich down very nicely—in only the way that Coca Cola can do.
After I finished my sandwich, Cosby joined me to discuss how “Pair of Dice” came to be. I asked him why Drain for the location of this café.
Cosby has family in town and moved up to be closer to them—originally coming from Roseburg where he teaches communication courses at Umpqua Community College.
“I moved into the apartment upstairs and this has been a number of different things over the years and so I decided I would open up a café. Just like that,” said Cosby. The environment and the town are no stranger to him—he was born in the Roseburg area and after some time in California, moved back to Oregon.
“Roseburg is where my parents met and they were married in Wild Life Safari,” Cosby said with a smile, “So when I was younger I got to hang out with tiger cubs, things like that. I came back up here to Oregon in 2000 and was involved in southern Oregon—Rogue Community College, I taught for RCC—and then came up here to be closer to family,” he paused, and then added, “And that 80 mile commute was sort of killing me.”
“Pair of Dice” is his first venture into restaurant business, and Cosby wanted to combine it with his love of board games. Board game cafés have appeared in recent years and have been gaining steady popularity since Toronto’s own first BGC, “Snakes and Lattes.”
According to “How Board Games Conquered Cafés,” by Hana Schank featured in The Atlantic, this trend is a good bet for the future and an offshoot result of society’s absorption into the Internet.
“In addition to providing a physical place for people to interact, it may be that people are turning to board games now because the games themselves come at a time when people are starting to lose the ability to interact and have conversations with one another,” Schank stated in her piece. Board game cafés allow people to congregate around a common interest, get out of the house for an hour and make friends with like-minded people.
“Pair of Dice” is absolutely exemplary of that goal. I asked Cosby where the concept for the café came from.
“Board gaming is a little hobby. I decided if I’m going to do something, I’m going to bring some of myself into it.” His eyes lit up, “The other day, a couple of grandparents sat down at that table with their granddaughter and I sat and watched them teach her how to play checkers. She’d never played checkers before. So it’s kind of neat to be a part of that process. People will come in, give me their order and I’ll say
For the future, “Pair of Dice” is working in collaboration with the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts (DIVA), headed by Stephanie Barrow, Oregon’s own self-proclaimed “Crazy Sign Lady”, creator of “Wowsie Signs”, and painter of the gorgeous mural across the street from Zolezzi’s Insurance—more on her in future pieces, I promise.
The Grand Gallery Opening and First Friday Night Artwalk will be held Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, and will go from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and will feature live music, food, dancing and art shows all along C Avenue.
For “Pair of Dice” personally, Cosby hopes to engage the youth of the town. He pointed up to the projector in the corner and expressed that he could get a Wii console set up in the café and hold tournaments in the evening.
“There’s nothing for the youth to do,” he said. “Other than bowling and getting into trouble, there’s not a whole lot for youth to do. So it would be great if I could get them in, sit down and play board games, mess around on the Wii, whatever.”
Other ideas in the mix include painting classes at the café, wire-wrap jewelry and, currently, every Monday and Wednesday evening is game night. But for the most part, Cosby just wants to build into what he has found to be a very supportive community—leading to a Breast Cancer Support group and Bible study meetings.
“I would just love to have people coming in,” he said, “I’ve got a number of two-three-six-player games.”
I recommend rolling the dice on this café—trust me, it will be a checkmate.
PS: I got a cupcake, it was amazing.
Pair of Dice’s Facebook page (keep updated on events and contests!) https://www.facebook.com/PairofDiceBoardGameCafe?fref=ts
Wowsie Signs’s website