When you travel to The Woodlands/Conroe area, you are probably heading up north for a few reasons: 1) To see a concert at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion 2) To shop at The Woodlands Mall and Market Street or 3) To eat at one of the Waterway restaurants or newly established eateries in the surrounding area.
While most of us frequent the likes of CorkScrew BBQ, Jasper's, Uni Sushi and Hubbell & Hudson for lunch or dinner, there's another quaint café you must visit for breakfast and lunch, or when you need a little something sweet to eat.
I heard about Forest Café & Bakery when my mom stumbled upon it while she was out and about on 242 and I-45. She said the place was packed at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Unfortunately when she went inside, the bakery was out of most of its pastries, cupcakes, sweet breads and cookies, but she told me I needed to check this place out.
During the past several years, College Park Plaza has grown significantly. Now, there's a Panera Bread, McAllister's, Jax Burgers, The Cupcake Cowgirls, Picomolo Ice Cream and Shogun Grill. Although I have spent the majority of my life in The Woodlands, I clearly haven't ventured into the College Park Plaza enough.
Forest Café & Bakery is a family-run business that opened in 2006. It sure is a mom-and-pop restaurant -- the owners go by Mr. and Mrs. G, and she is the mastermind behind all of the baked treats. It's a simple breakfast and lunch eatery serving comforting dishes you'd expect to have at grandma's -- pancakes, French toast, omelets, soups, sandwiches and burgers. And everything is made from scratch.
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My fiancé and I visited Forest Café & Bakery for lunch, where we definitely enjoyed our grilled chicken Caesar salad and hot Forest Club sandwich. The chicken was seasoned perfectly, the lettuce was crisp, and it was a satisfying and refreshing meal. The Forest Club sandwich is a triple-decker version with layers of thin turkey, crispy bacon, tender lettuce, diced tomatoes and a spread of mayonnaise. With the toasted wheat bread, it's a classic, filling sandwich.
But, as we saw plates of Texas French toast with eggs and bacon, buttermilk pancakes and various omelets come out of the kitchen, we wished we had ordered breakfast. If only we had paid more attention to the hours, because breakfast is served all day at Forest Cafe.
From the looks of other patrons' plates, the pancakes appeared fluffy and perfectly thick, and seemed to be a favorite. Forest Café is the Cracker Barrel version of a small-town diner; the food is simple, made-to-order, and makes you feel as if you are dining at the house of your favorite relative (and the one who is the best cook).
As families large and small and couples young and old sat at their tables enjoying their meals, we got a sense that this place has a lot of regulars. Mr. and Mrs. G would visit with the various tables like they were chatting with a best friend. Several employees in the plaza walked in on their lunch breaks and the cashiers knew what they wanted before they ordered. And although we were strangers in this café, my fiancé and I felt right at home.
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Especially after the dessert.
The pastry and sweets case next to the cashier holds an incredible variety of cupcakes, cakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls and breakfast pastries. With nearly 15 cupcake flavors, we couldn't resist ordering one; the Red Velvet cupcake with a tall swirl of cream cheese frosting and dusting of Red Velvet cake crumbs on top looked the best. The cake was moist and sweet, and the frosting was smooth and creamy -- all I needed was a glass of milk.
We also tried the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Nine cookies come in one cellophane-wrapped bag tied with a ribbon. The white chocolate macadamia cookies are buttery and soft and have the texture of fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies; each bite just melts in your mouth.
The next time I am in The Woodlands, I am heading to Forest Café & Bakery for breakfast, no matter what time of day it is. Well, of course, before it closes at 3 p.m.