Following last weekend’s Artisanal L.A. event, my girlfriend Laurie and I grabbed a bite to eat at the newest Sweet Lady Jane bakery and cafe in Santa Monica. Settling in at a cozy sidewalk table and basking in the unseasonably warm afternoon, we felt a little like those lucky ladies who lunch. Oh, maybe one day…
Jane Lockhart opened the original Sweet Lady Jane on Melrose Avenue in 1988 after growing tired of store-bought desserts that tasted “too sweet” and “too commercial.” Ms. Lockhart’s firm commitment to baking with only the finest imported chocolate, the freshest butter and cream, and the highest quality in-season fruits has garnered her a bevy of fans, including the chicks from The Hills! [Careful, the link will take you to a very good episode.]
The Santa Monica shop, which debuted a few weeks before our visit, serves a selection of sweets similar to the original location—cookies, brownies, lemon squares, and eye-poppingly beautiful layer cakes.
As guests of the restaurant this afternoon, we were treated to light bites to start and decadent slices of cake to finish. Still feeling stuffed from the goodness we sampled at Artisanal L.A., both Laurie and I ordered the half sandwich and small salad combo ($10.50). Laurie chose a classic grilled cheese sandwich with cheddar, tomatoes, and sourdough, and a Sweet Lady Jane salad on the side.
Unless I’m dining with The Astronomer or my mom, I usually don’t steal more than a single bite from my dining companion’s plate. However, I had to make an exception for this fabulously cheesy and well-balanced sandwich. Who can resist toasty sourdough paired with oozing cheese? Certainly not me. Thanks for sharing, Laurie.
Heeding our server’s advice, I ordered the Curried Chicken Salad on Walnut Wheat with a Sweet Lady Jane salad on the side. After one very bready bite, I ditched a slice of bread and ate the rest of the sandwich open-faced. Lightly seasoned with curry and dotted with raisins, the chicken salad tasted lighter than expected and not the least bit creamy. While I would’ve liked a more assertive curry flavor, Laurie thought that the chicken salad’s spicing was just right.
The Sweet Lady Jane salad, which included greens, hearts of palm, jicama, cucumber, kidney beans, cherry tomatoes, and quinoa, tasted perfectly virtuous. I thought of my vegetable- and quinoa-loving friend Diana with each bite.
For dessert, we headed back inside the bakery to scope out the cake selection. All of the gorgeously decorated creations looked positively delicious, but I ultimately chose a slice of raspberry lemon cake. The tart lemon curd coupled with the light yellow cake gave me wedding cake flashbacks. I’m always stoked when desserts taste as lovely as they look.
Laurie wasn’t as pleased with her slice of apricot passion fruit cake due to the passion fruit’s subdued flavor. Even though the filling wasn’t perfect, we were both lovin’ the buttercream.
If only all Sunday afternoons could be this sweet!
Sweet Lady Jane
1631 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403