A Sweet & Smokey tale of family togetherness

Betty Walker isn’t supposed to be here. Her heart failed when she was 55. Doctors said the wait for a new heart was too long and she probably wouldn’t make it past 58.

Betty Walker isn’t supposed to be here. Her heart failed when she was 55. Doctors said the wait for a new heart was too long and she probably wouldn’t make it past 58.

But here she is, 74 years old and proud owner of the Sweet & Smokey Diner, where everything is made from scratch.

Doors opened in August and not much traffic passes by her spot on Park Avenue near Fifth Street. If you ask her, Bremerton doesn’t know what it’s missing.

“There’s not a place in town that does barbecue and deli and desserts and ice cream and fresh soup every day and be able to sit down and enjoy it for as little as we put it out for,” Walker said. “It’s just not gonna happen any place else.”

Walker wants Sweet & Smokey to feel familiar — like the kind of place people meet for lunch because they know the food’s great and they can hang out as long as they want.

“That’s the kind of place I’d like this to become — a community place‚“ Walker said. “A place where community can get together and really share.”

The decor is tailored to fit that vibe.

The front of the diner has about 10 two-person tables with red tablecloths. There’s a section of stool seating against the east wall that pays homage of the building’s history when it was called Ted’s Lunch and served workers during World War II.

About 20 different meats are cooked and cut in-house, including five kinds of bacon. They’re on display within sight of the front door. It’s the first thing most customers notice.

There’s also a larger dining area with family seating and local artwork for purchase hung from the wall. Each month they feature a different artist. December features nature photographs by Patricia Thomas. At first glance, they look as if they were made with a brush instead of a camera.

Walker opened Sweet & Smokey in August with her son, Nathan Sultemeier, and daughter, Cindy Abbay-Lugo. The siblings have very different culinary backgrounds

Sultemeier, 57, has worked as a butcher for almost 40 years. About a year ago, Walker asked Sultemeier if he wanted to open a restaurant with her. He agreed, thinking she wanted a more traditional restaurant.

“I’m thinkin’ I’m just gonna go and make all my smoke stuff and it would be just a regular restaurant because my sister had just gotten out of culinary school. And I thought she just wanted to cook,” he said. “And so then she tells me that she planned on us barbecuing.”

He cooks with a four foot by eight foot smoker and a barbecue pit he built himself out of a 300-gallon drum he got from NASCAR driver Kasey Kane’s grandfather. He uses briquettes and wet smoked wood ships.

“I just build a small fire in a small box that I can clean-up easy. And I’m not using wood because we don’t have room to stack it,” Sultemeier said. “It’s not really ideal but it creates a very decent product and I don’t like a really smoky product anyway. People just get carried away.”

His sister, Abbay-Lugo, 47, got her culinary arts degree from Olympic College. She’s the mastermind behind the popular barbecue chicken waffle sandwich, a combination of pulled chicken mixed with maple barbecue sauce served between two waffles.

“I like to put different things and create something different and new,” Abbay-Lugo said.

She’s famous for her unique pastries — think spicy chocolate cookies — and for letting kids decorate their complimentary desserts.

“I’m definitely a mother at heart,” she said. She has four sons of her own.

Abbay-Lugo sells her desserts under the name Cinfully Sweets. They’re available at Cornerstone Coffee on Pacific Avenue and will soon be available in RK Mart near the Manette Bridge.

It remains to be seen if Sweet & Smokey will become a Bremerton legend — it’s new and even good businesses fold. But Walker is confident in her family’s product. More than that, she’s just happy to be working and vibrant two decades removed from heart failure.

“It’s a fun job to work and I love it. I turn 75 next October, and I felt so excited that I was still able to feel good enough to want to come down here,” Walker said laughing. “Pretty exciting at the age of 75 to open up a restaurant.”

Sweet & Smokey Diner is at 417 Park Ave., in downtown Bremerton. Call 360-932-3120 for more information. They have orders to go and they also cater. Check out their daily specials on their Facebook page.