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I drank my coffee and surveyed the offerings. They had three varieties of hot donuts for $1.25 each and many more "fancy" varieties for $2.00 each. All the donuts are the heavier "cake" variety (not the fluffier yeast types) and are fried in the typical lifesaver shape. The fried chicken came in orders of a half or whole chicken, with your choice of two dry seasonings -- Za'atar (sumac-based Moroccan spice) or Harissa (Tunisian hot chili spice) or two different glazed seasonings -- Chile/Garlic or Honey/Ginger.
|Grapefruit-brown sugar donut|
When the big moment arrived, we got two full orders of chicken - one Za'atar, one Honey/Ginger. I got two donuts -- one halva/pistachio, and one grapefruit/brown sugar. I prefer yeast donuts or filled donuts; I find cake donuts to be the least appealing type. These were both dense and light, they crumbled easily, and they were perfectly fresh. I enjoyed the halva/pistachio donut, but I was not wowed. This was not due to any fault in its execution; I'm just not mad for cake style donuts. The grapefruit/brown sugar one was explosive in the flavor, and I liked the sugar glaze on it.
|Glazed honey-ginger chicken|
|Za'atar sumac seasoned chicken|
But it's not quite magical enough for me to make another sojourn into the city for it. The donuts are as good as you will find if you like the cake type, and I was impressed with the varieties of toppings for them. The chicken was terrific, but not jaw-dropping. You need to try it once; the atmosphere and buzz alone are a big part of it. Although the demeanor of the crowd is very different, this place has one thing in common with Pat's and Geno's cheesesteaks, on nearby Passyunk Avenue. Both destinations feature the lines, the crowd, the buzz that somehow elevates the eating experience. There are MUCH better cheesesteaks in Philly, but no better cheesesteak scene. There may not be better donuts or fried chicken, but the vibe lifts Federal well above the merits of its very fine fare.