Monday, December 12, 2011

Federal Donuts - Fried Chicken & Hot Donuts: What's Not to Love?

As a special belated birthday treat, my friend Erich and I took an impromptu foodie trek over to Federal Donuts, a little outpost of deliciousness in South Philly. While I'd been keeping tabs on Michael Solomonov's newest co-owned venture ever since its opening two months ago, I'd been waiting for the right moment to pounce.

Due to the speed with which the donuts (available at 7 AM daily) and the fried chicken (available at noon daily) disappear, pouncing (and planning) is by all means necessary. Well, generally, that is. This particular time, we decided last-minute to check out Federal Donuts for Saturday brunch. And with serendipitously impeccable timing, we showed up at approximately 11:55AM.

After thanking Erich for expeditious parking, we dodged in front of an older couple walking towards the entrance to the corner store front. (No one gets in the way of me and my brunch!) And I couldn't have been happier to enter a warm room permeated by smells of fried chicken, hot donuts, sugar, and spices.The space was indeed small, with the majority of the room taken up by fryers, trays, carts, and a wraparound counter.

With only a few seats available, the set-up is definitely meant for take-out service. While I wasn't quite sure what to do when we walked in, we made our way to the counter to grab our numbers for our half chicken orders. Word on the street is that there are only so many chickens fried each day, so if you don't make it in time to grab a number, you're essentially out of luck. Happily, we'd arrived in time to be 41st and 42nd in line.

While we waited, we checked out the minimalist menu overhead, and made some key decisions on how we wanted our chicken finished off, what donuts to pick up, and which beverage to pair with our savory and sweet treats. We also had the opportunity to sample various donuts that the staff cut up for all of their patiently waiting customers. Erich was good (and strong) enough to restrain himself -- I, however, demonstrated absolutely no self-control. Yummy yummy donuts.... Nom nom nom....

When our numbers were called, Erich chose the Za'atar Crispy finish on his chicken, along with a combination of Fresh and Fancy donuts. With my sweet tooth, I went with the Honey-Ginger Glazed finish on my chicken, along with the Vanilla-Lavender, Key Lime, and Nutella-Tehina-Pomegranate donuts. Having tasted a number of donut samples, I have to admit that I found most of the Fancy ones way too sweet. And given my general love of sugar, that's saying a lot.

To top off my take-out meal, I went with a Dr. Brown's celery soda. Given that I'm not a big fan of soda, I was essentially choosing something that I'd never heard of nor tasted before. With his Dr. Brown's root beer in hand, Erich collected our semi-greasy white paper bags, and we made our way out of South Philly, in search of the perfect spot to dive into our fried chicken and donuts.

We quickly found our way to Fitler Park in Fitler Square, and made a beeline for a park bench in the sun. As soon as we opened our bags, we realized that the restaurant had given us each a free Fresh donut! Setting those aside for dessert, we focused our attention on the task at hand -- getting through a half chicken without creating a greasy mess.

As neither of us chose to share (shocking), I can only comment on my order. That said, I was more than satisfied. The chicken was crispy without being shiny, and the fact that it wasn't entirely covered in batter was actually quite pleasant. (I really hate the feeling of eating equal parts meat and batter.) The glaze was both savory and sweet, and the stickiness contrasted nicely with the crispness.

I had no trouble finishing my entire order, though I must say that the chicken breast was my least favorite piece, being quite dry and stringy. It seemed like it'd been left in the fryer just a few seconds too long. On the other hand, the free Fresh donut was my first experience with a truly phenomenal cake donut. While I'm still very much committed to my beloved Krispy Kremes, I definitely have a new-found appreciation for the cake donut. The celery soda was also surprisingly amazing, and washed down everything quite nicely.

By some miracle, I was able to save my other three donuts for several days -- before promptly inhaling them all in one sitting. As expected, the Key Lime was, like the other Fancy donuts, way too sweet. The Nutella-Tehina-Pomegranate was slightly better, and not as overwhelmingly saccharine. The Vanilla-Lavender, like the free Fresh donut, was another perfect cake donut. (By the way, I ate them all too quickly to have photos of them. *Sigh*)

Given that Erich polished off his chicken almost as quickly as I did, I suppose he liked the Za'atar as much as I liked the Honey-Ginger. He also seemed to prefer the Fresh donuts over the Fancy ones, which were scrumptious in their simplicity. And not only was the food delicious, but affordable as well. With the Fresh and Fancy donuts costing $1.25 and $2, respectively, and the half chicken costing only $9, I'd choose FD over KFC any ole day. All in all, this was a wonderful foodie experience, and I can't wait to come back for more. Now I just need to make sure and time my visit to a tee....

Federal Donuts
1219 S. 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

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