Cindy Bridges, of Cindy Lou’s Deli has been baking or cooking for family and friends, as well as professionally, since she was so little that she had to push a chair up to the counter in order to be able to reach it. She started out by baking chocolate chip cookies, and by the time she was 10, she was winning 4-H ribbons at the State fair. At the age of 13, her mom went back to work, and it happily fell upon Cindy to have the family dinner ready every night when everyone walked in the door. She was doing what she truly loved, and, “Besides,” (she said with a twinkle in her eye), “that way I didn’t have to do the dishes!” However, it wasn’t until her late 40s that she realized that cooking, (especially the kinds of dishes that are considered to be fine dining, or in French, haute cuisine) was her true passion. Some of her “signature dishes” are steak and lobster, paella, (a spicy Spanish rice, saffron, chorizo sausage and mussel dish, and Jamaican jerk of all kinds.
Cindy had always grown her own herbs, and found cooking to be peaceful and calming, something that not everyone experiences! She began to buy copies of Bon Appetit in order to see if she could successfully prepare more complicated dishes, and found she could. She quit being intimidated, and with new found confidence, took a cooking class. Cindy laughed as she said, “That unleashed the monster.” While largely self taught, she went on to hone her culinary skills in a number of ways at several outlets. She was the prep chef at Luciano’s when it opened in 2008. The most fun she ever had was working under Chef Ron Casey at Canebrake. She was the chef that opened up Belle Chevre’s banquet and reception venue. She went to the Art Institute in Nashville, and became certified in culinary skills. However, there is one thing she has never done until now, and that is, own her own place.
On May 6th, Cindy Lou’s Deli opened up in Elkmont, and is housed in a charming little bright blue and white building that used to be an ice cream shop. It sports a window box of popping red geraniums, has a covered outdoor eating spot with table cloths, and most days, fresh flowers in Mason ball jars grace the tables. She is assisted by Valerie Payne, the young lady framed by the order window in the cover picture. Between Cindy’s skill and experience, and Valerie’s hard work, the first month of Cindy Lou’s “existence” has been a success, and word is getting around that the food is great. While I was conducting the interview, a call came in from a local bank that wanted to do a customer appreciation event in two days, and wanted Cindy to bake some “tasties” from scratch. She chose to make what she calls apple pie bites, which are the cinnamon/apple equivalent of pigs in a blanket. They were a big hit, were consumed quickly, and next time the bank will probably double their order.
Cindy’s cooking philosophy is that the food she prepares has to have “flavor and love.” She told me, “Anyone can cook a frozen hamburger patty.” However, she goes to the trouble to get her meat custom cut from the butcher, and it’s never frozen. Her chicken is local, and she gets her produce from as close by as possible. The ice tea is home brewed, the sauces and desserts made from scratch, and the burgers are like what you would make for a cook out if you had the time. The mushroom and Swiss burger is a big hit, as is the Reuben. I have also had the Nathan’s all beef dog and sauerkraut, and for me, it hit the spot completely.
As mentioned above, the desserts are really taking off. Valerie’s favorite is the chocolate fudge pie, which of course can be made all year long. The fruit pies are made from fresh, locally grown fruit, and the strawberry pie and blueberry torte often sell out. Taking advantage of the seasons and growing cycles of fruit is one of the things Cindy thinks makes them the best, and she is not interested in getting fruit from out of the area or out of season.
As we go to print, Cindy is planning on having their Grand Opening in conjunction with the Smokin’ Railroad Street BBQ Cookoff event in Elkmont on June 19th. I asked her what she was planning on serving in addition to the regular menu, and all she would tell me, (with a dear half smile), was, “specially prepared items.” Come see what Cindy and Valerie are up to at Cindy Lou’s Deli, open Wednesday through Sunday.
Cindy Lou’s Deli
18980 Upper Ft. Hampton Road Elkmont, AL 35620
Phone: (For take out orders and delivery) 256-732-3111
Hours: Wed-Sat 10:30-7, Sun 11-7
Facebook: Cindy Lou’s Deli
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner