Federal Donuts is a hole in one.
It seems couscous, coffee and barbecue just wasn’t enough for Michael Solomonov. Where for some star chefs progress means complexity, for Solomonov, whose story made the New York Times dining guide back in September, headway is in simplicity — and more particularly, in donuts.
Opened in mid–October, Federal Donuts sold out its debut batch in less than two hours. Now things have slowed down a bit, but Philadelphians are still crazy about the spot, which switches its menu midday, swapping donuts for fried chicken.
On our visit to Pennsport, we opted for the donuts, which come in two categories: fresh ($1.25) and fancy ($2). The fresh donuts are made to order and served hot, the fancy donuts pre–glazed and stuffed.
Among the three varieties of fresh donuts, there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. Each of these uses the same airy, subtly sweet batter, allowing every dry sugar blend — Indian Cinnamon, Vanilla–Lavender and Apollonia Spice — to steal the show.
The Indian Cinnamon could compete with the best cinnamon donuts out there. The Vanilla–Lavender, dusted a pale purple, perfected the marriage of the two distinct flavors. The Apollonia, doused in an uncommon mixture of cocoa powder, orange blossom and a touch of pepper, was our favorite of the trio; its flavors were simultaneously unexpected and familiar.
The fancy donuts weren’t as uniformly stellar as their fresh counterparts, but we’re not going to pretend we practiced self–control. Unlike regular jelly donuts, these ones are still center–less. The filling is pumped through the pastry ring instead of pooled in the middle, making the donut a lot less messy and the ratio of filling to dough more manageable.
The Chocolate–Raspberry, robed in rich chocolate icing and stuffed with jam, was as good as it sounds. The Key Lime’s graham cracker crust and lime curd filling recalled the summer pie’s best features.
If you love citrus, the Blood Orange will be right up your alley, but we found the filling and flavor to overpower that of the actual donut. Least successful was the Nutella–Tehina–Pomegranite, whose unusual blend of nutella stuffing, pomegranate glaze and sesame seed topping, was, to put it simply, a mouthful.
Given that Solomonov’s Bodhi Coffee serves Stumptown beans, we expected those here, too. But Federal pours a custom blend coffee, courtesy of Topeka, Kansas’s PT Coffee Roasting Co. We loved the robust flavor, which was plenty strong for our 7 a.m. trip, and kept our palms warm while we headed home to get started on our dozen.
1219 S. 2nd St.
Don’t Miss: Indian Cinnamon donut
Skip: Nutella–Tehina–Pomegranate donut