20th Century Cafe in Hayes Valley conjures up a swelling false nostalgia for Hapsburg era Trieste, or is it Zagreb? It could just as easily be Vienna but this sliver of a elegance along Gough Street wouldn’t countenance those comparisons. The ladies that run it come straight out of San Francisco and the menu, while inspired by Eastern European, is clearly contemporary. It’s such a tiny place filled with a grand atmosphere that recalls Tosca and Trieste in their prime.
Come for the incredible sweets including their justly lauded Russian Honey Cake but if you have the appetite or partners then wander through their Sacher and Linzer Tortes. The nostalgia shades into the convivial environment composed of marble tables and a plush banquet that runs the length of one wall. These features induce strangers to share quite frequently or you can drift on the background music which quite frequently features the piano.
As for the espresso, they have a vintage machine that produces a very soft and rounded cup which is, appropriately enough, served in delicate china.