There are a few indisputable facts about me. I am not a fan of fried chicken. I do not like donuts. Hipsters make me itch. So, what the hell was I doing at the long-awaited opening of Federal Donuts? Standing on the sidewalk in front of the coffee/chicken/donut eatery this morning, I wondered the same thing. I normally don’t patronize restaurants on opening day as inaugural menus and service are usually as successful as the maiden voyage of the Titanic, but like most of the city, I was seduced by the hype. After all, Federal Donuts has been the highly anticipated darling of Philly food editors for quite some time–with City Paper, Foobooz, and uwishunu keeping the buzz alive with numerous write-ups.
In my extreme naïveté, I thought my 11 AM arrival would give all the ironically cool hipsters time to get their coffee and donuts and get back to whatever hipsters do. I was right–sort of. I avoided the huge swell of people that one of the owners told me hit at 7 AM, but my fashionably late arrival was the culprit behind me not getting my hands on any of the fancy donuts. Anticipating demand, the FedNuts crew doubled their initial batch and, even though people were banned from ordering by the dozen, they sold out by 8:30. A quick-thinking Michael Solomonov (of Percy St. Barbecue and Zahav fame and co-owner of Federal Donuts) ran out to get ingredients for another batch which–surprise–sold out as soon as they came out of the fryer.
Undeterred, I decided to stick it out. Forty-five minutes of waiting in the tiny space and I was rewarded with a sticky box that was near collapse from the dripping honey glaze of what turned out to be a pretty amazing meal. (You’d be well-advised to shamelessly lick your fingers should this happen to you–completely worth it.) The Korean style fried chicken had a beautifully crispy skin with deep nooks and crannies that caught the rivulets of sweet glaze and made it addictively good, but a serving of pickled veggies was unimpressive. If, like me, you encounter a donut sell-out (of which I suspect there will be many), order the honey ginger chicken because it’s the only bird that comes with a donut. The donut, painted with a thinned-out honey mixture, was akin to a beignet which I considered a small miracle because I hate dense, cakey donuts. Korean fried chicken and donuts may be the new Southern chicken and biscuits and guess what? It works.
It may be too early to call, but I predict Federal Donuts will be a game changer–it’s that good. Chicken joints and donut chains should be nervous–very nervous.
Update: An eager, super-dedicated Federal Donuts employee informed me that all chicken meals come with a donut–the employee who told me otherwise on opening day was misinformed. Thanks for the heads up!
Federal Donuts – 1219 S. Second St., Philadelphia, PA 19147 | 267-687-8258