Ever since the cupcake trend died down (at least a little bit), everyone has been looking for “the new cupcake.” I found it.
I never particularly like the cupcake trend because there didn’t seem to be flavors in a cupcake I couldn’t get elsewhere. Red velvet cupcake? Yeah, I can just get red velvet cake. Move along. Nothing to see here.
So I was a little apprehensive of the new, “trendy” donut and fried chicken place opening in South Philly. Another baked good trend? Meh. But on Monday morning I headed down to the opening of Federal Donuts, the brainchild of Philly chef Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (of Zahav), BODHi Coffee owners Thomas Henneman and Bob Logue, and local food-and-drink expert Felicia D’Ambrosio (aka the tour guide on the Philly episode of Bizarre Foods). This place already had an advantage in my mind, since the hummus and salatim at Zahav is my kryptonite. When I die, I want to be slathered in that hummus. Preferably by Solomonov himself. Or any of the male servers from Zahav. I’m not picky.
I went along to Federal with my former flame (The Artist), because he has a few fabulous qualities for an eating partner: he shares, he knows what he likes, he’s been to Zahav and he isn’t afraid to park in the city. But then we walked in, and The Artist asked if they had decaf coffee (they did not) and then I remembered why it didn’t work out between us. One point for Federal, though.
They have two types of donuts: rolled in flavored sugar and fancy. By 9am (when I arrived), they only had the sugared left. I was a little upset I didn’t get to try the nutella-tehina-pomegranate, but tomorrow’s another day. Plus, I have to get back post-breakfast crowd to try the chicken.
We ordered four donuts, an iced tea and a large coffee, which came to $10. In the awkward “we haven’t seen each other since we ended our romance” shuffle of ordering, we accidentally got two of the same donuts, which left us with two vanilla lavender, a chili lime and an Indian cinnamon.
As we sat on the windowsill waiting for our donuts, the hipsters poured in and the seemingly unemployed people in expensive cars pulled up and tried to parallel park (I saw several cars and a moped or something get hit right outside the window). People were taking these donuts seriously. One woman yelled at some others in front of her for not moving up adequately when the line spilled out the door. At that moment I realized: this is some serious business.
Our donuts were piping hot and barely greasy, holding the sugar a little more in some places than others. But unlike the cupcake bullshit, these were truly unique flavors. And better yet, they are fried. The Indian cinnamon was by far our favorite; the vanilla lavender was lackluster compared to the others. The chili lime was tangy and not too spicy, yet left my lips burning in just the right way. They would be amazing with beer. BYOB, guys?
At about 9:30am there was a bit of a panic in the place when they ran out of donuts completely and I watched Chef Solmonov scramble to make a batch of batter and separate eggs with his hands. There’s something I like about that guy, and it’s that even though he just won a James Beard, I always see him working in his kitchen.
If only he had a real beard.
1219 S. Second St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147