A Brilliant Simplicity

Federal Donuts gives the people what they crave

Fried chicken and doughnuts? Truly, the greatest ideas are sometimes the simplest.

That’s the premise at Federal Donuts, located at 2nd and Manton streets in South Philly. Add Michael Solomonov and the knowledge of Middle Eastern spices he’s honed as chef and owner of the modern Israeli restaurant Zahav, and suddenly the luncheonette-sized spot from Solomonov, Zahav partner Steven Cook, Bodhi coffee owners Tom Henneman and Bob Logue, and food writer Felicia D’Ambrosio pushes towards brilliance.

As a matter of fact, genius is the word that ran through our minds when we stepped into Federal Donuts for the first time. It’s the word that crossed our lips when we first bit into the simple honey almond doughnut. No flashy glazes or spices were necessary to hook us. That there were other options (including a ring doughnut that, mind-bogglingly, is stuffed with Nutella and tahini and topped with a pomegranate glaze) seemed almost superfluous. Again, it’s the simple things (like the Appolonia doughnut, fried by Federal’s #42 Donut Robot as you watch, then tossed with sugar, cocoa and orange blossom powders) that are often most affecting.

The twice-fried chicken is dry-cured overnight. After its second hot-oil bath, it’s either dusted with Middle Eastern za’atar spice or dipped in a Korean-style chili-garlic glaze. In either case, the satisfying crunch gives way to impeccably juicy and steamy chicken meat. Another alternative combines buttermilk and ranch flavors, creating the fried chicken equivalent of Cool Ranch Doritos.

The final option on the menu at Federal Donuts is coffee, served either traditionally hot, or cold and brewed through some impressive glassware. Coffee, doughnuts, fried chicken: simply genius.

Photo by Ryan Lavine