Federal Donuts (Philadelphia, PA)

We haven’t tasted a ton of donuts this summer, it’s true.

We had more of an intention to, but we got a little de-railed. Duc had to win the primary so he could run for 2nd Ward Alderperson on Ithaca’s common council; meanwhile, Laurel had to be the Communications Director for his campaign.

I mean, we had to.

Good thing he won the primary!

Ducson Nguyen for Ithaca Common Council

Otherwise, the donuts might have been mad at us.

There there, sweet donuts. It’ll all be alright.

MORE than alright, actually. Upon return to donut-land from the campaign trail, we were immediately greeted by this text from our friend Eric:

“My campaign contribution/celebration is Philly’s Federal Donuts. Dropping them off while swinging through Ithaca tomorrow.”



We’ve said it once but we’ll say it again. Over and over and over. We’re lucky people.

Federal Donuts

OK, so most simply put, Federal Donuts is what dreams are made of.

They’ve combined two amazing fried things into one deliciously efficient one-stop shop: donuts and fried chicken. Every order of chicken comes with a donut. WTF.

Federal Donuts Philadelphia

We have to put a disclaimer on here — we tasted these donuts two days old. That’s like 75 years old, in human years. Donuts age FAST.

And yet, we blasted through 5 of them. These were silver-fox donuts. They may have been old, but they were lookin’ gooood.

Actually, they didn’t look good. They looked terrible:

Federal Donuts Philadelphia

As stated previously, donuts don’t age very well. We had low expectations.

These donuts, though, were pretty amazing. They were all cake donuts — each donut was made with the same dough, the only difference between each being the toppings. In addition to your standard chocolate and plain glazed donuts, we sampled the lemon ricotta, grapefruit brulee, and strawberry shortcake varieties.

Each topping was tasty — the chocolate glaze actually tasted like rich chocolate (there’s a first time for everything) and the lemon ricotta glaze was intense, bright, and lemony.

Two days old — we were floored. Even the dough, which should have suffered the most during the aging process, was moist, flavorful, and interesting, seasoned with simple cakey flavors that most donuts get wrong.

Both of us could have easily continued eating these donuts for a very long time.

So we have to assume, day of, they’d easily be ranked a 5.

Thanks, Eric, for your contribution.

Duck Donuts (Charlottesville, VA)

Duck Donuts is a small chain that got its start in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which harbors a tiny town named Duck (yes, it’s a little confusing that my name is Duc). They added a new location in Charlottesville, Virginia this year and I happened to be in the area for work.

I prefer not to taste new donuts without my co-blogger — I feel guilty and I like to bounce opinions off her. But sometimes you just have to step up and do the hard work.

Duck Donuts is unique in that it fries donuts to order. Since this is impossible with yeast-raised donuts (which can overproof when left out), they exclusively serve cake doughnuts. Your options, therefore, are limited to coatings (glazes and icings) and toppings (things like sprinkles and peanuts).

An automated dispenser drops batter into a trough of oil and a conveyer belt draws them out for cooling. People working there apply your flavor choices.

I selected glazed, cinnamon sugar, maple, and strawberry.

Upon inspection, I found them to be absolutely delicious. A crunchy crust gave way to soft, warm cake inside. Laurel has commented on the tendency of cake donut batter to contain cinnamon even when the coating outside doesn’t mesh well with it. Duck Donuts didn’t have this problem — the dough flavor was sweet and rich, providing a delicious and versatile base for the topping options.

For the toppings I tried, most were successful. The sugar glaze was the right amount of sweet. The maple icing had just enough maple syrup flavor without being overwhelming. My favorite was the cinnamon sugar, which I tend to associate with cake donuts. The only disappointment was the strawberry icing, which didn’t have nearly enough strawberry flavor for my liking.

It can’t be a coincidence that my favorite doughnuts have been those that are fried fresh on demand. But, like Indian Creek Farm‘s donuts, I can report that Duck Donuts age well even 24 hours later.

So, in short, these are amazing. Keep an eye out for Duck Donuts’ ever-expanding empire because it’s certainly worth driving for.

Score: 5/5

(Yeah, that’s right, I’m just going to casually throw that out there. No big deal. Easy 5.)

Northstar Brunch

If you like eating food at all, I imagine you’ve probably been to Northstar for brunch. And if you haven’t, you sure should get your butt over there regardless of your desire to eat donuts.

With a constantly-evolving seasonal menu and some kick-ass brunch cocktails, Northstar is pretty much a delight of a brunch spot. Their buttermilk doughnuts are always on the menu, with a sauce du-jour that’s spread over the top or resting below on the plate. Frequently with a fruit sauce or a chocolate sauce, we tried them on a day with a peanut-butter caramel sauce.

But of course, first we had to eat real food:

…which was obviously delicious. Northstar really gets portion sizes right. It’s worth noting.

OK. On to the donuts.

Northstar Donuts

On the plate, they look fantastic. These donuts have the obvious advantage of being fried to order, and they meet that expectation with a lusciously crisp and crunchy outer shell.

Northstar Brunch Donuts

Texture is an important part of donut-eating, and the outside really delivers here.

Northstar Brunch Donuts

Of course, flavor is important too, and their dough center is a little sweet and a lot flavorful, unlike many donuts we have tasted.

Unfortunately, the dough is just a touch dry. But it’s not enough to ruin the experience, and the tasty caramel sauce takes care of it pretty quickly.

Northstar Brunch Donuts

So, fairly full from brunch, we devour the plate. And we have to conclude that this is a great Ithaca donut. Northstar Brunch! We REALLY didn’t want to have to give you a bad review. This is great news.

The donuts get a 4.5/5 from both of us, and moves into the top spot for Ithaca. Woohoo!


It may or may not be worth mentioning that Laurel ended up returning to Northstar for dinner. So 100% of the food she consumed for the day (save a margarita) was prepared by the Northstar staff…… if you needed to be convinced or anything.