It's been a week since Federal Donuts opened in Wynwood, and the fast-casual eatery has created quite a buzz.
On a recent visit in the early evening, makeshift signs noted the shop had run out of wings and fancy doughnuts, although the twice-fried Korean chicken and regular doughnuts were available in abundance. Across the street at Concrete Beach Brewery, dozens of happy guests were chowing down on chicken sandwiches and crisp thighs.
The chicken ($11 for a half, $22 for a whole, served with a honey doughnut) has a satisfying crunch on the outside yet is supermoist on the inside. The doughnuts are soft, warm, and surprisingly light. The guava poppy variety ($2.75) has a fragrant tartness, and New Yorkers who long for a bite of Big Apple-tinged nostalgia will crave the black-and-white doughnut.
Michael Solomonov, the James Beard-winning chef who cofounded FedNuts, as it's lovingly referred to in its hometown of Philadelphia, says he's pleased with how things are going in the southernmost outpost of his doughnut-and-chicken emporium. "One day is not an indicator, but since we started this process, we've been welcomed very warmly," he says. "Our Miami customer is not that different than in Philadelphia. In general, people have been very excited, and the neighborhood feels close and familial."
Solonomov says the differences between Miami and Philadelphia might be more pronounced when Dizengoff opens in a few weeks. He explains that the hummusiya's daily toppings and salads are inspired by fresh, local produce. "Our process is basically finding the best ingredients that are available in season. In New York, a lot of vendors at the Union Square market dictate how we do things, and in Philly, especially in the summer, whatever is fresh turns into what we have on the menu. So I imagine that will be the same here."
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The chef plans to use Miami's abundant tropical fruits, such mangoes and avocados, in spreads, preserves, and pickling. He's shocked to learn that Miamians implore neighbors to take ripe mangoes simply because there are too many to eat when they're in season. "To get a ripe mango in Philadelphia is shockingly expensive."
Solomonov's business partner, restaurateur Steve Cook, has an idea: "We're going to plant some mango trees."
The two, who recently co-wrote Federal Donuts: The (Partially) True Spectacular Story, also believe in transparency when it comes to culinary techniques. The book shares the recipes for both doughnuts and chicken, along with tips for success (such as freeze the dough before you form the doughnuts). Says Cook: "We never believed in secret recipes. Anyone can open a doughnut shop if they want to — they can use our recipes now. But that's really a small part of it. I also feel that owning a restaurant is about hospitality, and guarding secret recipes seems to be the opposite of that spirit."
The book is due out in September. Until then, stop by Federal Donuts for a snack and a bit of hospitality straight from the City of Brotherly Love.