The Spokesman-Review, August 2, 2012
Doug Clark: Flatliner creator raises the (maple) bar


There have been a lot of cruel accusations lately about Americans being overly fat, which, if you ask me, are mostly due to bathroom scale malfunctions.

Even if the charges are true, however, I would encourage the nation’s food nannies to eat a Flatliner or two at Spokane’s Donut Parade, 2152 N. Hamilton St.

They’ll soon discover what I learned during my visit there Wednesday morning. Not being able to look down and see your feet is a small price to pay for the joys of munching one of these chewy mergers of meat and maple.

What’s a Flatliner, you ask?

It is (and I hope you’re sitting down right now) an oven-fresh maple bar that has been covered with thick bacon and then impaled end-to-end by a long link pork sausage.

A cholesterol time bomb, you say? An arterial clogger?

Yeah, the Flatliner probably violates several edicts of the Geneva Conventions as well.
But please. Don’t pass judgment. At least not until you’ve forked over two bucks and scarfed one of these puppies down.

“Everybody loves it,” said Roy Reno, Donut Parade co-owner and father of the Flatliner who began selling this item to the masses on Monday. “I can’t keep ’em on the shelf.” Strange though it may seem, the Flatliner’s contrasting salty/sweet flavors and soft/crunchy textures work amazingly well together. If only Congress were so compatible.

“This is soooo good,” I mumbled between chews. “I wonder how many calories each one has?”
Brian Trowbridge, the Donut Parade regular sitting next to me, chuckled slyly. “You really want to know?” No, Brian. No I don’t.

I learned about Flatliners thanks to Richard Hodge, a Donut Parade loyalist, who sent me an email that contained the following:

“If you’re wearing a pacemaker you don’t even want to look at one of these things,” he cautioned. I normally don’t write about sausage products unless they’re related to a major news event like the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile coming to town. But a pig in a bacon-slathered maple bar blanket? Count me in!

The Donut Parade is a true Spokane icon. Reno and his wife, Christian, bought this beloved time warp at Hamilton and Illinois five years ago from original owners Darrell and Kathy Jones. The family affair continues with kids Alex, 21, and Kaytlyn, 10. They take orders and do what’s needed.

Help also comes via customer volunteers like Bill Martin, who often pours coffee during the morning rush. “Everybody here’s good people,” he said. “I’ve been to other places and it’s like you’re just a customer. Here it’s like you’re really good friends.”

Helen Yokum, a 20-year Donut Parade veteran, became a volunteer worker after her husband suffered a stroke. She arrives early. She stays late. She even does most of the shopping, said Roy appreciatively. “This is my therapy job,” said Yokum. “I love it.”

Not much has changed since this place opened in 1968, which has a lot to do with the charm. Take the Donut Parade interior. With its chrome fixtures and faded outdated signage, the place has the folksy, slightly shabby look of a vintage diner. Made-from-scratch donuts are the main attraction, of course. Cake donuts. Glazed donuts. Sprinkled donuts. Chocolate donuts …

Not surprisingly, the stellar maple bars are the biggest draw. I’ve certainly never tasted a better one. According to Roy, maple bars can account for up to 800 of the 1,300 to 1,400 donuts sold daily.

Roy came to donut cooking via an unusual route. “I spent 22 years in concrete,” he told me. Roy said he took naturally to baking, which may have something to do with all the cement mixing he did in his former work. An experimenter, too, he came up with his bacon bar last year. A Saturday-only item at first, popularity soon dictated that it be everyday fare. But why stop there? On Monday, Roy felt that urge to push himself even further and the Flatliner was born. “High-calorie, high-fat stuff,” said Roy, who deep-fries all the bacon and sausage. Roy jokingly added that he might make his customers sign a waiver before each Flatliner transaction. At least I think he was joking.

“I was in really good shape when I got here,” said Roy, who feels obligated to taste too many of his finished products. Since buying the place “I’ve probably put 50 pounds on. But if I was skinny as a rail people would think something was wrong with the donuts.”

Even Roy knows where to draw the line, however. As heavenly as Flatliners are, he said, “I’m not gonna make a habit of eating them.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman- Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.