Hatton sees its first full-time diner in years

HATTON, N.D. -- For a few years, Dorothy and David Flaten displayed vanity plates on their red-and-white 1991 Chrysler LeBaron convertible that read, "COKE CAR."...

Double D's Diner
Dorothy Flaten and her husband David opened the Double D's Diner in Hatton, N.D. earlier this month. It's the first full-fledged cafe the town has had in 17 years. Herald photo by John Stennes.

HATTON, N.D. -- For a few years, Dorothy and David Flaten displayed vanity plates on their red-and-white 1991 Chrysler LeBaron convertible that read, "COKE CAR."

It's a reference to Dorothy's passion -- collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia.

The license plates have made for some interesting encounters on the road.

David recalls a few occasions when cars filled with young people would follow closely, almost tailgating them down the highway, but wouldn't pass.

Finally, one of their friends suggested that the license plate could be mistaken for a reference to cocaine.


"It never dawned on us," he said.

At about the same time, the Flatens became grandparents. So, they traded their "COKE CAR" plates for ones that note their grandparenting status.

The "COKE CAR" plates are prominently displayed again, this time in downtown Hatton, in the new Double D's Diner, which the Flatens opened earlier this month.

It's the first full-fledged café in this Traill County community of 777 in the past 17 years, since the former Country Squire Inn closed its doors in 1995.

The community-owned Sunset Lounge serves some food, but not breakfast. And the Dairy Bar, a seasonal café and dairy bar on the edge of town, hasn't been open for a couple of years.

Double D's doubles as a miniature Coca-Cola museum, with a bright red-and-white theme, from tablecloths to the red Coca-Cola shirts the Flatens wear as they cook and serve breakfast, lunch or evening specials.

The place has the feel of a 1950s malt shop in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Dorothy has built her Coke collection in her home, where she has operated a daycare center for the past 19 years. But she's been moving some of it to the café for the past few weeks.


"I've wanted to do this for a long time," she said. A lifelong Hatton resident, she once managed local Dairy Bar.

Residents of this town 40 miles southwest of Grand Forks have been waiting, too.

Their interest initially was piqued in October 2010, when the Flatens bought the Hatton Senior Center building after the facility closed.

"It was the perfect opportunity," Dorothy said.

They were in a hurry to open. But six weeks later, she had open-heart surgery.

"I said it's just going to give me time to heal," she said.

While she recuperated, David, a self-employed carpenter, started remodeling the building, installing a new furnace and air-conditioning system, a new ventilation system and other equipment.

When the café opened, Mayor Doug Meier and members of the Hatton City Council were among the first customers.


"It's wonderful, absolutely wonderful," said Meier, a banker at Farmer and Merchants National Bank in Hatton. "There wasn't one when I moved here, in 1996."

The Flatens served about two dozen customers at lunchtime Friday, when the specials included pulled pork sandwiches and a side dish, or meatloaf and creamed potatoes.

The cafe is open seven days a week, beginning at 6 or 7 p.m., depending on the season.

So far, the biggest evening draws are Mexican food on Mondays and hamburger specials on Wednesdays, complete with old-fashioned malts and shakes, when as many as 50 meals have been served.

The café has about a dozen employees, all but one part-time. Dorothy arranges work schedules to accommodate their school and extracurricular activities.

"A lot of the kids I had in daycare now are waiters and waitresses on the weekends," she said. "I've known them most of their lives. We love it."

Meier said the café has created some excitement in town.

He points to a couple of other local developments, too. An old hardware store is in the early stages of being converted into a fitness center. And Farmers and Merchants, one of two banks in town, is weeks away from starting a major remodeling project.


"Any new business is a good business," the mayor said. "It's nice to have a cafe in town."

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send email to .

David Flaten at Double D's Diner
David Flaten checks an order before it leaves the kitchen of the Double D's Diner last week in Hatton, N.D. Herald photo by John Stennes.

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