1. Fed Nut employees get there as early as 4:30 a.m. to start making donuts.
As we entered the donut store around 7 a.m., the sweet smells of hot dough and cinnamon spice already filled the kitchen and wafted over to greet us. It was reassuring to know that heaven never sleeps. Or at least sets an alarm earlier than yours.
2. The donut making process is as steady and meticulous as you imagined in your wildest dreams.
Homemade cake batter dough is softly placed in a small dispenser over a tub of hot oil that plops out donut shaped cake rings one at a time. The donuts slowly begin to gain volume as they cook in the oil. A conveyer belt keeps them moving and flips them over before being hand placed on a cooling tray for their icing–dunking or sugar–dipping. One machine. So many possibilities.
3. Rise and fucking grind: Beauty doesn’t need its sleep at Federal Donuts.
Even before 7 a.m., trays upon trays of donuts had already been layered with homemade icing, coated with the topping of choice and placed on a rack to be admired. Federal Donuts sells almost every donut they make in the morning and has to keep the donut–making process going throughout the day to keep up with demand. So not only does the store reliably smell like pure goodness, but the donuts are always fresh. This is in stark contrast to rumors we’ve heard about a certain chain donut factory. Those donuts were made in batches at 6 p.m., and shipped to nine different stores that night. In other words, the donuts are twelve hours old by 6 a.m. Not even going to calculate how old the one we had at 9 p.m. the other night was. As long as there’s a Federal Donuts nearby, America shouldn’t be running anywhere near that stuff (let alone on it).
4. If you think getting a final round interview is hard, try making it onto the final tray of donuts.
If the doughy cake plop doesn’t come out of the hot oil with the same dimensions as the other beautiful donuts, it gets thrown into a big blue bin, much to our dismay. When we first saw this happen, we looked at each other in mild confusion and our hearts sank. So many donuts, so much opportunity. Our actions grew unpredictable after discovering this bucket of discarded donuts. Would we take them while the employee wasn’t looking? Would we hold everyone hostage in the name of free donuts? Unclear. Perfection comes with a price, and since the donut plopper avoids the excess waste of cookie–cutter donuts (think about where munchkins come from) at the end of the day they’re not any worse than anywhere else.
5. All the dough, icing and toppings are prepared fresh every morning at their 7th and Fairmount store kitchen. Not at 6 p.m. the previous day.
After the donuts have cooled a little to the perfect icing temperature (didn’t know this temperature existed, but we’re really glad it does) they get hand–dunked into a big bowl of hot icing that has been bubbling over a double broiler while the donuts cook. The extra icing slips down the side of the donut or is absorbed by the hot dough for extra moistness (use of this word is not optional in this case). Next, the donut chef rolls them in or dusts them with the topping of choice. The Milk and Coffee donut got coffee grains, the Chocolate Eclair got Nilla wafers melted in hot butter and salt, and crunchy pecans went to the Butter Pecan. In our opinion, you could dunk the donut in gasoline, and we would probably still eat it at this point.
6. There is a secret donut.
We couldn’t decide if we were more mad or excited when Chef Matt told us there’s a hot and fresh donut option all the stores have that’s not on the list. Ask for the Appolonia and watch your donut get rolled in spices from the same famous spice guy that Zahav uses to blow your mind. This is no different. The mix begins with cocoa, orange blossom and clove, but Federal Donuts also added sugar just in case it wasn’t decadent enough. So basically this has every flavor you would ever need on a Tuesday morning. Chef Matt pulled out a large container of fresh spices, grabbed a donut right out of off the cooling tray and rolled it around in the mixture until it was perfectly caked with a thick layer of gentle chocolatey crack. We blacked out after this part.
7. Get ‘em while they’re hot because the flavors switch out every six to eight weeks.
It would be hard to forgive yourself if you missed out on the chance to revel in butter pecan donut–induced heartburn because you have to wear a bikini in PV in a few weeks. Screw PV. These donuts aren’t going to eat themselves, and rumor has it that a new flavor is on its way. Chef Matt’s been thinking about a dark chocolate habanero donut; ~hot~ chocolate is so in right now.
8. Federal Donuts has bomb–ass coffee.
Don’t be fooled. This coffee may come out of the same creepy looking dispensers that you see in Mark’s Cafe, but it is damn good. It features a flavor profile of “juicy melon, black tea and sweet caramel.” Unlike wines that claim they have an “aftertaste of leather” or a “savory oak flavor,” you can actually taste the hints of black tea and caramel in this Elixr brand blend, 'specially made for Fed ‘Nuts. Next time you’re hermit-ing in VP, walk right past Starbucks and never look back. The extra minute won’t kill you, and it’s a whole different ballgame. And yes, they have cold brew.
9. Big Donuts, Big Hearts
Federal Donuts (under parent company, CookNSolo), is opening a non–profit soup restaurant where 100% of the proceeds will go to the Broad Street Ministry to help serve the homeless. Homelessness is a huge problem in Philly, where 26% of the population lives below the poverty line, and Federal Donuts is really paving new ground with this concept. The kitchen will take the leftover chicken from their delectable bone–in fried chicken to create a flavorful chicken stock base. With this base, they will cook up different soup flavors under the name “Rooster Soup Company,” coming soon at 15th and Sansom. They have the building already, but since it’s a non–profit project, they need to raise more funds, so look out for their efforts to raise money and support the cause. You get hot soup, homeless people get much needed resources. It’s win–win.
10. A chicken sandwich exists. And its potential to change a brother’s day is untapped.
After winning the New York Food and Drink Chicken tasting with this boneless double fried chicken sandwich on a Martin's potato roll, with buttermilk ranch seasoning, spicy sauce, American cheese and pickles, Federal decided to add this 8th wonder of the world to its menu full–time. There is obviously someone looking out for us from above. We quickly asked if it was too early to have a chicken sandwich (7 a.m.) Chef Matt said yes, and we found ourselves doubting him for the first time all morning. Pro tip (we now consider ourselves donut pros): if you’re feeling really ambitious, buy two donuts and make a donut sandwich. Buy a third donut and put it in between the two donuts. Then pop eight Lipitors and wait for your heart attack to hit.