Investing $100 to get back $16,000 seems like a great return. Especially when you’re confident that you will win the raffle. That’s right, a raffle. To win one of five entries in a contest who’s ultimate prize was a food cart. And yet, Chris Sarff of Cindy Lou’s at Happy Valley Station was certain he would not only get his chance to compete but ultimately prevail.

Photo showing Cindy Lou's food cart at Happy Valley Station

We talk a fair bit about “The Journey” in these blog posts. The journey that food cart entrepreneurs take to realize their dream. This journey, the journey to achieve the dream of Cindy Lou’s, is one of the most unusual we’ve yet heard. With only hours left to purchase a ticket to enter the drawing, Chris did the deed. And the very next morning he and his family’s lives changed forever.

Photo showing Cindy Lou's food cart at Happy Valley Station

Valerie Hunter, creator of Happy Valley Station, was the Tasty Tuesday guest in August, 2015. She talked about Happy Valley Station and the contest that Chris would ultimately win. It was an intriguing concept for a contest.

Photo of Chris Sarff owner of Cindy Lou's food cart at Happy Valley Station

The contest went like this; you purchase a raffle ticket for $100, if your number was chosen, you won a slot in a contest to then compete for the grand prize. Which was a fully equipped food cart. And a months rent for the cart at Happy Valley Station. If your raffle ticket wasn’t chosen, well, you were out a hundred bucks. And still Chris believed without question he would win the cart.

Photo showing the smoked brisket, the Spanish rice, the Texas toast, and the barbecue sauce at Cindy Lou's food cart at Happy Valley Station

This also meant a head-to-head cook-off between all the raffle winners and an interview with the contest judges for each competitor. And once the judges weighed in with their choice, the prize of the food cart was awarded to Chris on Christmas Eve 2015.

Cindy Lou’s opened in early 2016. The recipes for the menu are from Chris’s mother, Cindy Lou. In fact, the name of the cart and the reason Chris entered the contest is a tribute to his mother and her cooking.

Photo showing the smoked baby back ribs, the Three Cheese mac and cheese, and the barbecue sauce at Cindy Lou's food cart at Happy Valley Station

Cindy Lou’s offers naturally smoked beef, chicken, and pork prepared in the Sarff family tradition. Chef Johnny Toldan, the meat maestro, uses a truly secret, custom blend of spices for the meat rubs. Johnny also uses his own recipe for the barbecue sauce which he has been perfecting for ten years.

The side dishes at Cindy Lou’s are unlike what you’ll find anywhere else. The Spanish rice and the Three-Cheese mac ‘n’ cheese are made just as Cindy made them. During the cook-off portion of the contest, the sides were requested as second, third and fourth helpings by the judges.

Cindy Lou’s is located at the Happy Valley Station food cart pod at SE 143rd and Sunnyside Road. Hours are 10 to 8 Monday through Saturday and 11 to 6 on Sundays.

Listen now as Steven Shomler and Ken Wilson talk with Chris Sarff and Johnny Toldan of the Cindy Lou’s food cart about secret spices and the unshakable belief in that your dream will come true.