Don’t Miss: The Shabazzi Fried Chicken Skip: Dill Pickle Glazed Chicken $
A long–time favorite among fried–food–lovin’ South Philadelphians, Federal Donuts has brought its goodies to Center City with the opening of their second location, at 16th and Sansom St. Since its debut at their original 2nd St. location, Federal Donuts has built a reputation as the flat–out best donuts our fair city has to offer, catching the eyes and warming the hearts of not only Philadelphians but aficionados all over the mid–Atlantic as well.
What FD’s domestic name doesn’t indicate is the world–class buttermilk fried chicken it also serves up. In fact, as owner and Philly restaurateur Michael Solomonov admits, the spot was originally conceived as a chicken and coffee joint, and the donuts were sort of afterthought — and a miraculous one at that. The donuts are split into two categories: "Fancy," which includes out–there flavors like Green Tea Sesame, Spicy PB&J and Maple Bacon ($2 each), and "Hot Fresh," served as their name indicates in varieties like Turkish Mocha and Strawberry Fennel ($1.25 each). The quirky flavors certainly provide a unique and memorable touch, but the true artistry of these donuts lies in the texture. No longer do you have to choose between donuts that are doughy or fluffy, light or dense; no, these inhabit that delectable middle ground of absolute perfection. Like, bowling–a–300 perfection.
Had the meal ended with the donuts, it would have been well worth the trek to Center City. However, the following fried chicken made it a nigh divine experience. The woman behind the counter recommended the Shabazzi seasoning ($9 for a half chicken), the ingredients of which I could not tell you, but I almost like it better that way. The buttermilk coating was crispy, golden, greasy–but–not–too–greasy, and the meat was tender as could be. As a long–time denizen of the south, I can say that this was the finest fried bird I’ve ever had the pleasure of being served.
All of this leads to the obvious question: Why chicken and donuts? We’ve all heard of chicken and waffles, but at first glance the menu at FD seems a bit incongruous. Why would an elite Philadelphia chef open such a humble spot? The neo–‘50s aesthetic may provide the missing conceptual link. The gleaming white tiles, red and blue accents, and funky countertop seating bring you back to a simpler time, a time before wireless file sharing and Retina Displays, when all anyone needed to be happy was a fresh, fluffy donut and half–bird fried golden. Federal Donuts is a rejection of the label “déclassé,” an homage to that which is elegant by virtue of perfected simplicity, and a beacon of home–cooked joy amidst the cold bustle of the city.