You would think the mascot should be an eagle – I will even accept a hawk. But no, they decide to use a chicken, or more specifically, a rooster. They could be implying anything with their name “Federal” and the iconic red, white and blue strips. I have a feeling it is something to do with the United States. As confusing as the meaning of this restaurant name, donuts aren’t the only thing people come here for, and this may be the reason behind their mascot. We happened to sat around in the restaurant at 9am on a Saturday morning only to see people leaving because they wanted to taste their Korean style fried chicken, except that the chicken were not ready yet. The butchers are probably still skinning the birds after this morning’s call.
One thing is for certain, they make very good donuts and fried chicken. In other words, everything on their menu is delicious. I first heard of this place back when they just opened and was told that they serve mouthwatering donuts. Similar to the experience many others had, I came for their donuts but was intrigued by their interesting mix of menu items and ended up ordering their fried chicken. The fried chicken was coated with rather thin batter but came with bold flavors, depending on the rub you asked for. Don’t order it if you are in a rush – they actually do order to fry.
Back to the story. We aren’t exactly regulars but we would stop by Federal donuts every chance we have. They only begin serving fried chicken later in the day but you got to be here early for their daily special donuts. There exist only one batch of fancy donuts so it is wake up early or never to eat them kind of deal. These are the donuts that make us come to Philadelphia early on a cold spring morning (it actually snowed as we were driving here). Besides the specials, they bake 3 standard “hot fresh” donuts all day, and these you do not have to kill a bear to find them. If they run out, another batch will be out soon. Be patient!
DP and I shared half a dozen, so I picked the three that weren’t fruity – peanut butter chocolate, old fashioned glazed and chocolate glazed. He got the rest on the rotating menu – blueberry mascarpone, grapefruit brulee and honey glazed. I had breakfast before this and decided to just eat one while it is still fresh. Of the three, the peanut butter chocolate looked the most appetizing so I grabbed it and bite into the soft donut. You see, Federal donuts have dense cake like texture unlike your typical greasy and concrete dough. Kind of ironic, I know, but that’s probably why they are so popular among the locals. Well, I wasn’t really expecting peanut butter so I was very surprise when all my taste and smell sensors are loaded by peanut butter. My eyes figuratively popped open (for an Asian, that’s a big deal). The front desk saw my expression and giggled a little bit, smiled and commented that she had the same experience the first time she tasted that donut.
Compared to the peanut butter chocolate dount, the other two tasted pretty similar in terms of texture with the first, but they did not overwhelmed me with striking flavors. As we sat around enjoying our morning coffee, more people came and went with either donuts or the news that there will be no fried chicken until later in the day. There were two bakers in the open kitchen glazing a new tray of donuts and it suddenly struck both of us that there is a donut machine quietly chumming away in the background frying all the goodies. As the donuts undergone the frying process, they pop up on the other side and flip over onto a tray. We both squeal as that happens – apparently all it takes is a boring machine doing its job to make two engineers all excited.
There is nothing much else to say except to come over and grab some fancy donuts and impressive fried chicken here. Oh, this isn’t a dine-in place but more of a carry out express store front. There are some seating but it is mostly for people who are waiting for fried chicken or grab a quick bite. Their coffee is decent (pssss. Go to La Colombe for “real” coffee, if that’s what you are looking for). The one we went to is situated in center city, and pretty much the de facto chain that all non-Philly locals stop at. I never been to any other locations but they might have fancy donuts later in the day with less traffic. I just don’t think that will happen – they probably sell like hot cakes everywhere. Well, except they are not hot and they are not cake.
Address: 1632 Samson Street, Philadelphia 19103 PA
Visited: March 28th 2015 at 9am for breakfast