Many Houstonians pass the Pinewood Cafe every day as they come and go from the zoo and as they mill around Hermann Park. This relatively new establishment is in a fantastic location and has the opportunity to provide a respite for hundreds of weary tourists each day. The cafe is located between the mini-railroad station and McGovern Lake, right next to the paddleboat rental area.
Location, location, location. Many people (ourselves included) will come upon Pinewood Cafe and imagine it to be the perfect spot to sit and sip a drink or have a bite. Even if you were playing in a different part of Hermann Park, it is not a particularly long walk to Pinewood Cafe, and they face virtually zero competition. The food is good - they serve "design-your-own" grilled sandwiches. Additionally they have soups, salads, and beverages. The interior of the restaurant is nothing special, but the patio is situated on a beautiful part of the lake and was a great place to catch a break and watch people feeding the ducks.
As I mentioned, the food itself is very good. My sandwich consisted of steak, pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, and mushrooms. Very nice. My wife had bacon, brie, and apples. Tres gourmet! We had a side of hummus which was very good, nice and spicy. As we circled back through Hermann park on our outing, we popped back into Pinewood Cafe for a dessert, a grilled Suzanne which was cream cheese and berries grilled on a fluffy sourdough roll. It was pretty good. I thought it was a good value all the way around. Considering the location, $5 per sandwich was decent, and the hummus was only $2. The suzanne was a bit pricey at $5 but you would expect to pay a premium for their location.
We were told that the Pinewood Cafe was experiencing some glitches at the time of our visit. It was not particularly busy, just a few customers ahead of us for counter service. However our order of two sandwiches took 30 MINUTES to finish. Not sure what the hold-up was, but this place cannot expect to survive with that kind of backlog. What would they possibly do at peak times, when there are 10-15 customers in line?? What made it worse was that there seemed to be no sense of urgency - a waitress stopped to chat with a customer for 5 minutes and all I could think of was "if you have enough time to stop and chat, you should be back there making sandwiches!"
In short, if you're tired and the Pinewood Cafe doesn't look too busy then by all means stop and take in a little of the park while you get your snack on. But if you see table after table of customers impatiently tapping their feet and looking at their watches, you probably want to save it for another day.