Well-known Hayes Valley spot 20th Century Cafe has announced that it will be closing after eight years, Eater SF reported for the first time.
Chef Michelle Polzine emailed customers this week that the cafe’s closure was posted on social media on Thursday.
“I’ve been through a lot, I know we all did, and I dragged my half-dead body into here week after week and made the best damn food I could make in years and tried so hard every day, but enough is enough, “wrote Polzine in part on Facebook. “I haven’t done everything I set out to do, but I’ve done most of it, and to a very high standard, and now I don’t ask myself any more.”
Polzine’s Café was known for its multi-layered honey cake, which became a star dessert for the store, and the showpiece for their cookbook, which came out in October 2020. The café was also loved not only for its seasonal cakes, sourdough bagels and strudel, but also for the European atmosphere, inspired by Polzine’s trips to Prague, Vienna and Budapest.
A counter with cakes and pastries in the 20th Century Cafe.
Yue J. / Yelp
Polzine told Eater SF that the shutdown was not due to the COVID-19 pandemic (although it was a factor) but told the publication that she was more likely not to be running a small business in San Francisco. “San Francisco is not hospitable to small business owners,” Polzine told Eater SF. “I love this city as a citizen. I still want to live here. But I’m no longer interested in having a business here.”
“It’s a matter of love that would have worked really well in San Francisco 20 or 30 years ago, but the business is very business now. The most unique is not the most valuable,” added Polzine in an interview with The Chronicle (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently.) “I would bring writers, musicians, and artists back here again and again, and then that population declined over the years.”
The late 20th century cafe is still weeks away; Polzine has a few more things planned before she finally closes the café. The cafe is going to close in a couple of months, and in that time she has some “fine china and freshly polished silver” dine-in events in the works, as well as some prix fixe meals, brunches, and maybe some classes coming up before they close.
“We did a really good job here,” said Polzine in her social media post. “We’ve created an oasis of strange and wonderful things. A magical place where you don’t know exactly what to do next, but you come along and buckle up.
“… I’m not done yet, but I’m done being a business owner,” added Polzine in her note. “I still love to cook, I can draw circles around chefs decades younger than me, and I have no plans to go away.”
20th century cafe, located at 198 Gough St., San Francisco, is open for a limited menu on weekends, both for pre-orders and for walk-up service. Check the website for the latest information on offers.