It’s so new, there’s no signage outside or around the 20th Century Café in Hayes Valley. For awhile I kept referring to it as the 21st Century Café. So I was off by a century.

The little corner café – built in a renovated space that used to be a coin wash spot – is the brainchild of former Range pastry chef Michelle Polzine, and while it does embark an old world charm, the name comes from one of Polzine’s favorite movies.

There’s a real European charm in the selections, with influences from Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. Only open about two weeks, the menu is small with savory dishes like soup and potato knishes and unusual sweets like Russian honey cake.

I sat in front of this guy who was focused on making some kind of pastry where he pinched a ball from the roll of dough.

I sat in front of this guy who was focused on making some kind of pastry where he pinched a ball from the roll of dough.

When I went on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t find a tea that I liked (they only offered a mint tisane, which really isn’t tea) so I ordered the affogato ($5.50), which is ice cream with espresso. While I could have been adventurous and tried the Russian honey cake (a layered cake), I’m always a sucker for coffee cakes ($4), and Polzine’s version is a cute little tower with seasonal fruit.

I enjoyed the affogato and the coffee cake, with a light airy cake texture with real chunks of peaches and raspberry. I also enjoyed the décor, with touches of old world charm. Polzine and friend even dresses in nostalgic-looking dresses for the part.

While the menu is limiting, 20th Century Café is a cute getaway with unique quality baked goods.

20th Century Café, 198 Gough St. (at Oak), San Francisco. Open Tue.–Sun., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Facebook page.

More typical offerings are chocolate chip cookies and individual coffee cakes.

More typical offerings are chocolate chip cookies and individual coffee cakes.

Michelle Polzine keeps busy behind the counter.

Michelle Polzine keeps busy behind the counter.

Affogato ($5.50) made with ice cream and espresso.

Affogato ($5.50) made with ice cream and espresso.

Peach and raspberry coffee cake ($4)

Peach and raspberry coffee cake ($4)

Inside the coffee cake reveals fresh peaches and raspberry

Inside the coffee cake reveals fresh peaches and raspberry

Industry oven shown off prominently in the space.

Industry oven shown off prominently in the space.

This came out later, and looked really lovely. I think it's a quiche.

This came out later, and looked really lovely. I think it’s a quiche.

The charm comes in the dinnerware, which really reflected the old European style.

The charm comes in the dinnerware, which really reflected the old European style.

20th Century Cafe takes up the corner in Hayes Valley that once was a wash and dry. But it's in good company, across the street from the popular Rich Table restaurant.

20th Century Cafe takes up the corner in Hayes Valley that once was a wash and dry. But it’s in good company, across the street from the popular Rich Table restaurant.

 

3 Responses to A Visit to the New 20th Century Café in San Francisco

  1. Jason says:

    What’s that sprinkled on the bagels?

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    OK, that is just TOO hilarious — you couldn’t find a tea you liked so you ordered coffee WITH ICE CREAM instead!!! Can’t wait to check this place out. I’ve always loved Michelle’s desserts.