Black Dice Café
By Grace Scott

Welcome to the Clubhouse

When Hideki Saito started conceiving the Black Dice Café, he had a pretty specific clientele in mind — himself.  “I wanted to do my own business; I’ve been in the restaurant and bar industry pretty much my entire life, and I put [Black Dice] together so it would be a place I would want to go to,” he says. “I couldn’t find a place like this in Toronto.”

That Saito would be hard-pressed to find something akin to Black Dice, a Japanese sake bar meets 50s rockabilly dive, is not surprising. The spot is something of an anomaly among the bars and restaurants that line the Dundas West strip. Walk through the unassuming glass doors and you’ll suddenly be transported to a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll clubhouse, bathed in a soft neon light.

I put it all together so it would be a place I would want to go. - Hideki Saito, owner
Black Dice Cafe is a '50s Americana-themed bar with a Japanese twist located along Dundas West.

I Put a Spell On You

Growing up in Sapporo, Japan, Hideki's passion for '50s Americana started at an early age. “I watched a film called American Graffiti when I was 16 and it changed my whole life,” he says. “Since then, I’m in. 1950s rock ‘n’ roll.” When he moved to Toronto in 2001, Hideki started collecting '50s memorabilia in earnest. Eventually, he says, he started running out of space. “It became too much and my wife was like, ‘Get rid of it,’” he laughs. Fortunately for the patrons of Black Dice, his collection found a home in his bourgeoning business, which first opened its doors in 2009.

And it’s really in the details that Black Dice stands out. A retro black-and-white TV plays a Samurai film, while soul 45s spin in the 1958 jukebox — all the singles are from Hideki’s personal collection. Take a seat at the bar and you’ll notice that bowling alley wood was reclaimed for the bar top, and the beer tap is adorned with a split BSA British '60s motorcycle tank. “BSA is my dream bike,” Hideki says.

In its early days, the bar served as a sort of clubhouse for Hideki and his friends. “I was in a vintage motorcycle group. We had 10 to 15 people always hanging out, going to cafés, stuff like that,” he says. “So I wanted a place for us to hang out as well.” Nowadays, what was once a quiet portion of Dundas West is teeming with busy bars and restaurants, and the clubhouse has become a haven for locals and visitors alike to sip on sake and enjoy the unique and casual vibe.

Black Dice Cafe is a '50s Americana-themed bar with a Japanese twist located along Dundas West.

Best of Both Worlds

Just like the decor, the drinks here are a mix of Americana and Japanese influence, too. Hideki suggests trying a Sake Old Fashioned, his personal favourite. “We do sake. That’s something I believe the bar should have because I’m from Japan, and bars in Japan, they all have sake,” he says. “And Japanese whiskey, which is getting popular right now because they’ve been winning awards.”

Other than the plethora of sake-based cocktail options, Black Dice also serves the Japanese rice wine off the tap. “Thats something that’s kind of unique. I find a lot of people here drink sake hot, but it’s not necessary.” If you’re need of snacking there’s a few options too. The bar serves up Japanese snacks like edamame and chicken skewers. However, as Hideki can attest to, one particular snack gets a lot of attention – "our Pogos are the biggest seller,” he says with a smile.

Black Dice Cafe is a '50s Americana-themed bar with a Japanese twist located along Dundas West.
Black Dice Cafe is a '50s Americana-themed bar with a Japanese twist located along Dundas West.
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