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Sweet Lady Jane's

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Another Chowhounder posted a topic about "Best Dessert Places In Los Angeles" several days ago and I responded with a recommendation for Sweet Lady Jane's. I was surprised at the number of critical responses relating to rudeness of their service which I had experienced as somewhat brusque but never outwardly rude.
After this afternoon I have completely changed my opinion.
I visited Sweet Lady Jane's this evening to pick up a cake. The line was about 6 persons deep. What I witnessed from the three people working the counter (including Jane herself) was nothing less than unprofessional - unacceptable and outwardly and unacceptably rude by any standard.
I don't care how good I think their desserts are (for the record I do believe they put out consistently "good" confections for the Los Angeles area). But the way in which they treated the several customers in front of me (rushing them - not having time to answer questions - and in the case of one customer where they admittedly acknowledged they had made a mistake in his order but then quickly brushed him off) was nothing less than astounding.
I have been to and seen much busier bakeries on the East coast where the line went at least 50 people deep for goods that I and Jane both could only wish she had the capacity to recreate -- and in each of these cases the staffs of those bakeries handled their customers professionally - competently and with respect. I am amazed at how this can continue and can only explain it as a lack of competition in the LA area of competent bakers and bakeries that have like or better goods. But as I don't have much of a sweet tooth and Sussina and Al Gelato are each relatively close by to their location - I will never go to Sweet Lady Jane's again as I would rather frequent and respect those establishments with my patronage instead of going somewhere that may know how to bake but doesn't know the first thing about dealing with their customers in a professional manner.

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  1. Sure their food is good, but I'll never be back because of awful servce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rednyellow

      A few years ago, there weren't that many choices for high end desserts and SLJ was a place we always met for birthdays. Last time I was there, I took my wife for her birthday and she liked the desserts but thought the service was very surly. The people behind the counter sighed every time we asked what something was. Most places have signs that tell you what type of cake/pie it is.

    2. How did they treat you?

      1. I prefer a Susina berry blossom cake to the SLJ triple berry cake any day. I've never been to SLJ, only had it brought to me. But I love Susina's interior. It's a comfortable place to sit, or even to just walk in and look. The staff is lovely, helpful, patient, and professional.

        SLJ's space looks dark and cramped to me; I've never wanted to go in. And after one time when the cake my sister brought over had frosting that smelled, I quote, "like sewage," never again.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Pei

          Maybe someone needs to drop off some cards from Boule, Lark, Jin, and Susina to remind them that they're not the only pastry game in town. I've gotten much better service for tastier desserts in all of those prettier stores.

          Susina especially is the closest competitor in style to Sweet Lady Jane, and in product, service, and atmosphere, they just clobber Sweet Lady Jane. The interior at Sweet Lady Jane definitely needs a revamp; it's got a stale, cramped, dated, very 1982 look about it - not at all like the delightful honey-colored Art Nouveau decor of Susina. The line at Sweet Lady Jane moves at a snail's pace, and the attitude is very dismissive. But I've had such professional treatment from Susina, and they're a joy to work with, producing consistently beautiful, delicious desserts. Sweet Lady Jane is almost like the evil, ugly, misformed Susina - the Bizarro Susina, if you will. "Me am Sweet Lady Jane! Me make flavorless cake and treat you like garbage!"

          1. re: Woolsey

            LOL, well said! Flavorless, dry, overly sugary cake with stiff chemically frosting!

            1. re: Pei

              some people love service with an edge. there is no explaining that sort of sado shopper. but others should avoid it if they find it offensive.

              1. re: peterboy

                I've had/seen and enjoyed service with an edge and that would be Musso & Frank's in Hollywood - Peter Luger's in New York or even the Wiener Circle in Chicago - Sweet Lady Jane's is 100% service with an "assh*le" - and the only way I could describe that kind of shopper is unknowing that there are better bakeries in Los Angeles that also know how to treat their customers and can handle the pressure of running a service oriented business.

                1. re: chowpuppy

                  There's a fine line between laconic (à la Musso's) and rude, and Sweet Lady Jane constantly catapults their bland cakes across said line, right into the faces of their customers.

                  1. re: Woolsey

                    We have just stopped going there. And, with the exception of triple-berry (which is delicious), we don't think SLJ sweets are all that great.

          2. re: Pei

            And I'm another huge fan of Susina's berry blossom cake and of their very fine customer service!

          3. I first discovered Chowhound by Googling to see if anyone else had been treated as badly as I had at SLJ.

            Hoo boy.

            When service is this consistently nasty, it's obviously deliberate. As peterboy says upthread, there's a perverse pleasure some people get from this level of service -- it's as if they think the product must be really, really good if the attitude is that horrible.

            Well, it's not.

            2 Replies
            1. re: maxzook

              I use to love SLJ when i first discovered it 10 years ago. I was put off by the sometimes dimissive service , but I remained firmly convinced that they had the best deserts. Slowly over the last few years I realize that their deserts aren't that great--i.e. sometimes the cake part tastes stale. The only cake that I truly delight in is their triple berry. Now that I have read about Susina I will definitely give it a try.

              1. re: sweetteeth

                The people I know who prefer SLJ's berry cake to Susina's uniformly prefer a more sweet cake, so bear in mind that Susina's will be lighter and fluffier. And if you're ordering a whole cake ahead of time, there's a $5 extra berries option that's totally worth it!

            2. I am blown away that the line was 6 deep. Who are these people? The desserts are mediocre (on a good day) and seriously overpriced, and the service is intolerable. Susina beats it on any day of the week. So does Boule, despite the high prices of its items. Boule's fruit tart puts any item in Sweet Lady Jane's filthy case to shame. How does a place like Sweet Lady Jane stay in business?

              3 Replies
              1. re: Faulkner99

                I personally think it's part location, and part "urban myth" that they are excellent- that's why SLJ's is still around. Haven't they also been featured on multiple Food Network shows? Their location is pretty good, if your in that part of LA anyways. I went there only once, but it was more than enough. I wasen't "wowed" in the least by what SLJ's had to offer, and taste-wise it was confirmed. The dissmissive attitute by the staff reeked of "be thankful your getting to try us!" and really grated on my nerves. Life is too short to eat bad cake, served by snotty waitstaff!

                1. re: Honeychan

                  as i mentioned in the thread before that woolsey links to, they have great PR. every month they're featured in mags like "in style" as the bakery for the celebs and tv shows on food network etc. in fact, they're a small blurb every month in some widely circulated glossy. people read it then the masses blindly follow. then it happens over and over and over...yawn! it's ok with me. they can keep going to SLJ. more for me at susina and boule!

                  1. re: Griller141

                    This is an interesting observation, as I've lived in both NYC and LA and have found customer service in general to be more courteous in LA.

              2. I'm getting a strong sense of déjà vu:

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/387283

                1. Not to reopen this thread, but I had an opportunity to sample Sweet Lady Jane's after hearing about the place. Service notwithstanding, I can say that the muffins there are awful. Supermarket quality. Just to put my experience in perspective, note that I sampled several sweets: a flaky apple danish; chocolate cupcakes; and three types of muffin - blueberry, bran, and banana nut. The apple and the cupcakes were fine; the apple was actually pretty tasty. But the muffins? Inexcusable!
                  The tip off was the smell: that sub-par commercial bakery smell (is it some kind of particular fat or shortening?) that recalls Vons bakery products. No joke - these muffins were just the same. And they were dry. Does anyone know if they're baked on premises, or contracted out?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: MrMark

                    regardless of where they're baked the workers at vons are 10 times nicer than the workers at SLJ. i'd rather be eating day old at vons than freshly baked at SLJ.

                  2. OMG, I just read the previous posts. Nice to know I'm not alone in thinking SLJ's time has passed.
                    The desserts are so stuck in the early 90's and the quality has gone way down hill. As far as the service- just plain mean.

                    1. I just went in to Sweet Lady Jane's bakery for the first time. The White Lemon cake was so amazing. A very sweet Russian girl helped me. Everyone was so friendly. I will definitely go back (the chicken curry sandwich was great, too!).

                      1. I think the name "Sweet Lady Jane's" is meant to be ironic or sarcastic. Jane and her minions are locally, perhaps nationally, know for being horrible human beings. But, I think it's schtick, like the Soup Nazi. The name is funny and has a nicer ring than "Insufferable C-word's House of Sugary Slop".

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: SaltCod

                          SLJ is now forever going to be the "Insufferable C-word's House of Sugary Slop" to me. You win the Internet!

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            As I sit here at work with a bad cold and lower back spasms, wondering why I even made the treck in the downpour, my answer has come from SaltCod. Thank you for making my day...ITA with yours and others' assessments that SLJ is...well...it's all been said.

                            My mother's 80th b-day cake, the triple berry, was presented to her at home, barely 3 days after a radical mastectomy. Mom was jonesing for something spectacular, and she was not disappointed. This was 3 years ago, and I've gotta say, other than that cake, the rest of the experience was mediocre. I got the same 'tude from the counter staff and the red velvet cupcake I had was...weird. It tasted too "food colory". Chemical-like.

                            Anyway, thanks again for the "ICHSS" moniker. I'll have to share that with Mom.

                        2. I love the triple berry cake, although admittedly it's been several years since I've had it... but, the 3 times I've been there, the service wasn't downright rude but it was pretty bad. They don't give a "flying fudge" if you're there or not. Personally, if I'm going to get desserts and I'm in LA, I'll drive out to Los Feliz and go to the Alcove... where the cakes can be equally as delish, for less money, and a billion times better ambiance.

                          For the prices SLJ charge for a slice, they should at least smile and say thank you.

                          I'm actually kinda surprised that people are still chattering about SLJ. IT seems so "10 years ago" that this was THE place for desserts. Don't most Angelinos prefer cupcakes now? What's the place called, Sprinkles? Or has that fad gone by the wayside too?

                          I'm trying to eat less desserts... because... well... I'd like to live long enough to continue to enjoy Mastro's filets. ;)

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: DrBruin

                            I said this in the other thread, but I love their cheesecake and I've never had bad service. And I've been there more than anyone on this thread combined.

                            1. re: sloanedone

                              Unlikely, I lived across the street from them for about five years, in the 1980s when they were new and just establishing their well-deserved rep for horrendous service. (It was the only place within walking distance to get a cup of coffee.)

                              1. re: maxzook

                                I've lived literally around the corner for over 9 years and go there all the time so I'm still pretty confident in my statement. Also, in all that time I've only seen one or two incidents where they could have handled it better. The young people there are very nice, although Jane seems to be oblivious.

                            2. re: DrBruin

                              Older thread, but still generating steam for some, I see. One of the longest threads I've ever seen on this board was also about the rudeness of the service at SLJ.

                              1. re: J.L.

                                I think this might be the older and longer threat you mention -- same topic
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/387283

                            3. I saw them on some Rachel Ray show. and then I went. I heard about them on Good Food, too. Well, maybe if I were a TV or Radio host I'd have been treated like a human.

                              I had eye rolling, snorts, sights, right down to browbeating by the counter guy, some chunky old dude.

                              After all that, the little dry cake I had was worse than Little Debbie or Betty Crocker.

                              At least Betty and Debbie are SMILING on the boxes.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Brussels Sprout

                                >>I had eye rolling, snorts, sights, right down to browbeating by the counter guy, some chunky old dude.<<

                                If he was snorting in a British accent, that was Mister SLJ. The snottinosyia pathogen that has cursed this place and most of its help is extremely contagious. Unfortunately, L.A. Vector Control has no cure or fix for this one...

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  A place like this could only exist in LA, where the citizenry seem to have a need to be punished. The ethos of Seinfeld's Soup Nazi has reached its logical extreme here. If only the product were worth the abuse...
                                  It is fascinating to me that this place has managed to put the lie to a thousand customer service training courses. I am very tempted to bring the Disney Guest Services trainers here just to watch their expressions.

                                  1. re: Griller141

                                    Spare us the "only rude people are in LA" stuff. Every town has some place like this, if not worse. Sweet Lady Jane is, perhaps, representative of the very small, insignificant, pompous culture that exists in a few blocks of N. Robertson. But it has little to do with LA at large.

                                    Go visit In N Out. Perfect friendly service, every time, more LA than Sweet Lady Jane will ever be, and here since the 40s.

                                    PS - I can't figure out why my posts are big font lately. My apologies!

                                    1. re: scoot

                                      Robertson runs north a little past Santa Monica and south.
                                      So that leaves east or west...
                                      What area are you referring to?
                                      West Hollywood or the stereotypical response to Beverly Hills?

                              2. Everytime I've read about this place I always hear the staff is rude,haha. For years and years..but I guess they've stayed in business so it's working out for them.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: bophisto

                                  I believe they do a great business supplying restaurants (Coffee Table, etc.). In fact I think they have a separate facility (in Silverlake?) for this.

                                  1. re: Briggs

                                    They do supply restaurants as well as sell their cakes frozen in selected grocery stores. One of their biggest clients for a while now has been Trader Joe's. They do some tarts, pies, and cakes under the TJ's label. For off-the-shelf, it's not bad stuff...

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      Do you know which desserts at TJ are from SLJ?

                                      1. re: fdb

                                        Look for the ones on the island display where the pastries, cookies, and cakes are. They usually come in domed clear plastic tops and black plastic bottoms. Linzer tortes, pear tarts, flourless chocolate walnut tart, etc. While I've found most of these to be very sweet, they can usually be toned down by some form of cream topping. They're not mind-blowing, and they're not bad either...

                                  2. re: bophisto

                                    Which is a sad comment on the self-respect of their repeat customers.

                                    1. re: maxzook

                                      You can't assume that every repeat customer gets treated poorly because, quite simply, they don't. The number of complainers on this site is very, very high, but there's a lot more people eating there than complaining on Chowhound. And I imagine most of them self-respect.

                                      1. re: sloanedone

                                        Chowhounds tend to be more critical. I think this is from the passion that we all share for food. However, in most cases, posters will be critical of the food - not the service. SLJ is one of the glaring exceptions. None of us really know what the Lousy Service Experiences/Number of Customers Visited ratio is except those behind the counter. And based on my now-past visits, I don't think they really care. Some of the staff has been somewhat cordial, some apathetic, many borderline impatient and hostile, and the worst are the owners - no need to elaborate on their behavior. But hey, those are just my observations.

                                        I have no idea how demanding the average customer is. Me? I rarely demand more of anyone behind a food service counter than a polite question (e.g., "What kind of filling is in that X-cake?") which is preceded by a polite greeting. If this is out of line, then please lead me down the road to self-respect. I am always eager to be a better person.

                                        I used to enjoy their their lemon-based items in particular, and have yet to find their equal, but their prices seemed to have a hefty "Coveted by Celebrities" premium added in. Throw in their customer service/interface issues and they just didn't rate my continued patronage.

                                  3. If you crave a Triple Berry Cake without that SLJ Attitude, go to Lido Bakery in Manhattan Beach.

                                    Before opening Lido Bakery, owner Evelinda Valenzuela was Pastry Chef at Sweet Lady Jane for 15 years. Evelinda's son Ernesto, Lido Bakery's Cake Designer, also worked at SLJ.

                                    Lido Bakery's Cake Menu is very similar as SLJ and Lido Bakery is less expensive than SLJ. Note that Lido Bakery keeps a limited number of cakes on hand so it would be wise to pre-order a cake.

                                    Lido Bakery
                                    3001 N. Sepulveda Blvd
                                    Across the street from Manhattan Village Mall
                                    Manhattan Beach
                                    (310) 545-8955

                                    http://www.lidobakery.com/id1.html

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Norm Man

                                      Great tip - I've driven by there so many times but never stopped. You wouldn't happen to know if Lido does any good lemon desserts, would you? Thanks in advance...

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        I haven't tried any Lemon Desserts at Lido Bakery. I've eaten Lido Bakery Berries and Cream Cake and it's as good as SLJ's version. I plan to try Lido Bakery's Lemon Raspberry Cake soon.

                                        Ernesto of Lido Bakery is a very nice guy who is very customer service oriented. Ernesto even has nice things to say about his work experience at SLJ. LOL!

                                        1. re: Norm Man

                                          Lido is now officially on my list of places to try when in the South Bay, which should be this weekend. Thanks again...

                                          1. re: bulavinaka

                                            Ah me too -- and I was just there *today*!!

                                            I can't believe this SLJ thread that never dies. Suffering Loathers of Jane, we all. Except for the regulars of course. All the rest are perhaps the Sadomasochistic Lovers of Jane.

                                            I happened on them in the mid-90's and loved their black-out cake and also watching them decorate the stuff. But eventually I tired of being treated like I was a black-out.

                                            1. re: aliris

                                              I hope you enjoyed Lido - I may have to postpone my trip there. My wife brought home a good-sized box of goodies from La Maison du Pain on Friday after I last posted. Oh the horror...

                                    2. If you all don't want to deal with the peole at Lady Jane, go to your local Ralphs.
                                      They now carry the Old Fashioned Chocolate, Red Velevet, Coconut and Imperial Lemon-raspberry 5 inch sized cakes.
                                      The one i go to at 12027 Wilshire carries them, not all locations have them so call to make sure before you go.

                                      6 Replies
                                      1. re: GenevieveCa

                                        Yup! Ralph's now sells SLJ's stuff. SLJ probably made a bundle on the deal - they don't need you or I at their shop.

                                        1. re: GenevieveCa

                                          I understood that the Sweet Lady Jane products would be sold only in the Ralph's Fresh Fare stores. Does anyone know if that is correct information?

                                          The regular Ralph's in Westlake Village at Thousand Oaks and Westlake Boulevard has been remodeled into a Fresh Fare. Today was one of their Grand Opening days and they had lots of samples and corporate suits walking around. They did a nice job with this location.

                                          In the bakery section, in a cold case, the entire case is dedicated to Sweet Lady Jane's cakes. There is a huge selection, including the large versions of a raspberry-lemon cake, a coconut cake and a red velvet cake. I hope this was not all for show and that they will continue to carry the variety of SLJ desserts.

                                          1. re: liu

                                            Gelson's also sells some of the SLJ desserts.

                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              latindancer - Where are the SLJ desserts at Gelson's Westlake Village? Are they mixed in with the bakery items in the case or are they somewhere else in the store?
                                              Thanks for this information, although I'd rather it not be so easy to find so many calories!

                                              1. re: liu

                                                Sorry I'm only aware of the SLJ products at Gelson's in Century City and the Gelson's on Santa Monica in West Hollywood.

                                            2. re: liu

                                              They have a special clause in their contracts with the supermarket chains ... every outlet that carries SLJ goods is required to hire at least three abusive and snobbish clerks to ignore the customers, thus insuring the full SLJ experience.

                                              Gelson's in Century City had to cancel their contract after the switchblade fight with the Viktor Benês gang.

                                          2. Why doesn't someone start an "Instead of SWL" topic? As much as I like reading these posts, instead of adding to this one, why not out and out promote competition that is friendly, courteous and happy to have our business?

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Fru

                                              I remember a thread, albeit I like your idea for the title, that addressed what you're addressing.
                                              For me...I could overlook the service and disinterested wannabes if their product was excellent.
                                              It's not.
                                              I've never understood the hype and there are bakeries worth ten times the praise this mediocre 'emperors new clothes' place attracts.

                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                I was at Gelson's in Century City a week ago, and noticed that their SLJ display was gone. I asked around and was told they don't carry SLJ anymore.

                                                1. re: Nacasia

                                                  I've never purchased the SLJ products at Gelson's....only noticed they had them.
                                                  Maybe Gelson's got tired too :).

                                              2. re: Fru

                                                I buy cakes from Kings Hawaiian. I can't complain. :)

                                              3. I went to Susina today, a place that people on this Board like to tout, in order to buy a cake. The place was empty, but the two young clerks at the bakery counter ignored me. Then one of them grudgingly answered my questions about the cakes, and then turned his back on me again. I got annoyed and left.

                                                Still in need of a cake, I headed to the infamous Sweet Lady Jane. The female clerk was perfectly nice and attentive. She started packing up a lemon tart for me, and then mentioned it should be eaten that day. When I told her it was for the following day, she politely unpacked it and offered me some other suggestions. I ended up with red velvet cake and when she heard it was only for three, politely suggested it would be more economical to buy three slices (I stayed with the whole cake because I wanted the cake experience).

                                                Anyway, I found the whole experience ironic given the hoopla on this Board about how mean they are at Sweet Lady Jane's and how attentive at Susina.

                                                Anyway, I just hope the cake is good. The Sweet Lady Jane's stuff I bought at Gelson's was horrible and full of industrial ingredients. I'm hoping there is a difference between what goes out to the supermarkets and what is sold at the bakery.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: omotosando

                                                  In other news, the river Styx has iced over.

                                                  Seriously. That's maybe the second positive report I've ever seen about a SLJ experience.

                                                  Could they have actually made a change? Or was your clerk perhaps on happy pills?

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    Bizarro SLJ experience... hehehe

                                                  2. re: omotosando

                                                    Time to get an agent - you obviously were mistaken for a celebrity - or are you?:) Who knows - maybe they're reading these threads and are actually starting to care. By the way, their lemon tarts are killer.

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      Their lemon tarts are nice but nothing compared to the sadly departed City Bakery.

                                                    2. re: omotosando

                                                      I think you made the right decission "wanting the cake experience." I got a18" pizza last night when there were only two of us at home. I could have got two slices but the experience of the whole Pizza was what I wanted. I finished it for breakfast today. Let us know how your cake experience turns out.

                                                      1. re: JeetJet

                                                        The cake was very beautiful, which was part of the reason I wanted the cake experience - the drama of unveiling it on a platter, where it sat prettily waiting to be sliced while the tea brewed.

                                                        The cake itself -- I've decided that perhaps I'm just not a cake person. It was boring and sweet and reminded me of being 10 years old at a birthday party. I am a huge dessert person and one of the things I love the most about high-end restaurants with their own pastry chefs are all the incredible desserts, with unexpected flavors and usually at least two or three different tastes and textures melding together. This was just cake.

                                                        1. re: omotosando

                                                          I'm a cake person.
                                                          I also think SLJ's cakes are 'just cakes'.
                                                          Plain old pretty cakes.

                                                    3. The two surest ways to get me to disregard someone's culinary opinions:

                                                      Laud Sweet Lady Jane's.

                                                      Use " Nom, nom" in a culinary review.