Michael Solomonov (aka the Philly restaurateur - the equivalent of Andrew Tarlow in Brooklyn, or Danny Meyer in Manhattan) opened the first Federal Donuts location with his business partner, two local coffee shop owners, and a Philadelphia food expert in 2011. On their first day of opening, they sold out by 9.30am. Thankfully, 5 years later, the lines have calmed down, which means that, in need of a sugary snack on a hot Philly Saturday afternoon, we could dip into this red, white, and blue store for two fresh, made to order, cinnamon sugar-coated doughnuts.
They were all out of the specialty glazed doughnuts by the time we arrived. From our view at the counter seats it was clear that all the intelligent, hungry people in Philly had ordered their box of 12 fancy doughnuts ahead of time. This meant we were left to test out the simple, basic variety, which, in reality, should signify whether Solomonov has mastered doughnuts as well as he has mastered hummus. The answer - thankfully - is that he has. (I will give you a full low-down on the hummus soon).
These cake-batter doughnuts are spiked with baharat spices, and are made fresh on-site, continuously, throughout the day. The batter is fluffy, light, and airy, with just enough substantial cake-iness to reassure you that this was made with proper ingredients. The doughnut-making robot pumps the dough out into a fryer, one ring at a time, and once cooked the doughnuts are flipped into the next section of hot oil, before they are finally removed from the oil, and the doughnut robot drains the excess fat off them. The last stage invovles a human coating them in your sugar or topping of choice. The doughnut robot has got doughnut cooking down to a fine art. And the team behind Federal doughnuts has got making the perfect batter sorted.
We skipped the fried chicken as this wasn't the planned lunch stop of the day, but next time, we will definitely be lunching on chicken and doughnuts, as Philly intends its visitors and locals to do.
Federal Donuts, 701 N 7th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123