Photography by Jessica Turner.
When Anh Vo decided to open Cindi’s New York Deli, it wasn’t because it was her dream.
“We just tried to make a living, tried to survive, that’s all,” she says.
Vo had some experience in the restaurant industry, after owning BJs Coffee Shop on Harry Hines. But when it came to cooking iconic New York delicatessen items like matzo ball soup, she didn’t have a clue.
Vo had driven past Cindy’s New York Deli and Pancake House on Central Expressway on her daily commute. Her coffee vendor told her more about the restaurant, which had three locations and abruptly shut down. Vo called the number on a sign on the building and said she wanted to rent the space. Then she sold the Harry Hines shop to focus on running her new restaurant.
She kept the BJs chefs, who had first taught her how to prepare dishes like chicken and dumplings. She kept the name Cindy’s, just changing the “y” to an “i,” and some of the employees who worked there. And she kept the cuisine, since the restaurant had been successful.
Vo was 34 years old when she opened Cindi’s, after years of working as a seamstress and running BJs.
The journey to becoming the owner of a local restaurant chain wasn’t easy or quick. In 1979, when she was 24 years old, Vo and her husband left Vietnam for the U.S., attracted by the democratic government and freedoms. It took a week for them and their 19-day-old daughter to get to Indonesia, where they stayed for about six months. On the trip to Texas, their boat was robbed by pirates four times.
Her uncle-in-law provided them a place to live, and the rest of their extended family was their support system. At the time, Vo and her husband spoke almost no English.
In 30 years, Vo has kept up the Preston Hollow location and opened four others throughout the metroplex.
“People always need a good restaurant,” she says.
The menu, which was 10 pages long before the pandemic started, has evolved to include customers’ and employees’ suggestions. Customers asked for stuffed cabbage, and chef Jerry delivered. That’s been one of Vo’s favorite orders lately, along with the combo soup with rice, a matzo ball and kreplach. Since opening, many of the items the original Cindy’s had purchased from a wholesaler, like the chopped liver, latkes and corned beef hash, are now being made in house.
Vo, who has been the sole owner of the restaurant, is thankful for her customers’ loyalty. And there isn’t much turnover among her staff, either. She trusts them to keep the business going when she works from home on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Her family is still part of her support system. All four of Vo’s children have worked at Cindi’s at some point. When her oldest daughter was 14, she was a hostess at the restaurant. It was a good learning experience for the kids, and Vo reveled in the extra time with them.
“I feel so lucky to have the business. The people just love us and support, are patient, and are very kind to us,” Vo says. “That, money cannot buy.”
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