There’s a certain allure to a central European café. A certain level of grandeur that is encapsulated in the little details. A certain level of indulgence that a regular old American café just doesn’t quite capture. 20th Century Cafe is a special place because it transports you instantly to an ambiguously central to eastern European place, where the pace slows and you find yourself lingering.
20th Century Cafe is a Cafe with a capital C. The kind of place where the act of having coffee is an activity worth savoring itself. The kind of place that could have only been dreamt up by a pastry chef. The little corner shop in Hayes Valley feels like a little piece of Europe. Marble tabletops with wooden Thonet chairs fill the intimate space. A glimmering copper espresso bar steals the show. But coffee isn’t really what you’re here for: the real draw is the eastern European cafe fare, from lunchy soups and salads to the showstopper: a truly decadent ten-layered Russian honey cake enticingly encased in a glass cake stand. Add in some inviting daylight flooding through the windows and you have yourself probably the closest you can get to borrowed nostalgia of the tumultuous century we love to romanticize.
2022 Update: 20th Century Cafe closed their location in spring 2021 and is currently on hiatus. Follow on social media for updates.
Go here for: the vibe (no but really, go pretend you’re somewhere else, it’s fun)
Order this: honey cake, pierogies, pretty much anything on the menu
Amount of time to spend: an hour or two, time slows
When to come: avoid lunch time, weekday afternoons are best for walk ins
Getting here: just a couple minutes walk from the Market St & Gough St station
Last visited: October 2019
Last updated: February 2022