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Hi-Lo's Cafe in West Bremerton boasts one-of-a-kind cafe table | Hidden Kitsap
The back streets of West Bremerton are hardly a desination. For some, a trip there is even somewhat of a scary proposition.
“I call it: ‘the road less-traveled,’” Heidi Yoxsimer — the ‘Hi’ in Hi-Lo’s 15th Street Café — summed up 15th Street. “If you don’t want to deal with all of that on 11th, you can take 15th.”
She and her husband, Lowell — the ‘Lo’ in the equation — found the end of a decade-long quest to owning their own coffee shop on that street, when they bought the Hi-Lo’s building back in 2003.
And while that notorious section of town has not historically been a destination, right there, at the corner of Callow and 15th, sits one of the county’s most unique places for a meal — a 1970’s Volkswagen bus in full-on hippie regalia, parked beneath a ‘West Bremerton’ mural on the side of Hi-Lo’s, beaming in the afternoon sun.
It seats six at a table inside the cab and two on a short bar at the back end. It’s the only seat in the house you can get a reservation for.
It used to be the Hi-Lo-Mobile.
“The bus used to be our daily driver,” Heidi says. “We drove it for about 10 years. Everybody loved the Hi-Lo bus, we’d drive it around and all the kids would wave ... but then one day, it didn’t want to drive anymore.”
After a decade road trips up and down the West Coast (Heidi and Lowell are originally from Southern California), plus three years as the Hi-Lo-Mobile after they opened the cafe in 2006, the bus, named for its savior and dashboard figurine, “Obi-Wan-Kenobi” retired last fall.
“It was totally tired,” Heidi said. “It’d been to the doctors a few times ... and actually the last time it broke down was on the Warren Avenue bridge — in four o’clock rush-hour traffic.”
A handful of Hi-Lo’s faithful, who’d known the bus from the cafe parking lot, stopped to help that afternoon — a testament to the loyal following the neighborhood cafe has built. One customer even helped them tow the bus off the bridge.
“We’d had it for so long and it’d been on so many road trips, that we didn’t want to get rid of it,” Heidi said.
Plus, by that time, the bus had become an iconic part of the café.
So, as its customers suggested that Hi-Lo’s expand, the idea of gutting out the bus and turning it into outdoor seating arose. And it wasn’t an all-too-radical idea idea for Hi-Lo’s. They’d already built a self-serve coffee counter out of the back of another old Volkswagen bus for their grand opening.
The place is full of wonderfully weird aesthetic, including but not limited to: a disco ball and a near life-size portrait of the Fonz in the bathroom, an unofficial Thermos museum — with more than 200 thermoses on display — along with Elvis 8-tracks and framed old LP vinyls. They also sell local art work and music, and stock the coffee counter with the local, Poulsbo-based Grounds for a Change coffee.
Not too mention, they serve breakfast all day, or burgers for breakfast, however you like it.
“We treat everybody exactly the same, whether you’ve been in a million times or the first time,” Heidi said. “We created this space, but it’s the customers that keep it generating.”
Info: www.hilos15thstreetcafe.com or call (360) 373-7833 to reserve the bus.