What, exactly, is a donut? At The Daily Meal, we define a donut as an item that you would expect to see in a donut shop: the familiar ones we know and love (of both the raised and cake varieties), like crullers, apple fritters, and other donut-shop classics — you know them when you see them.
So, in order to assemble our most-recent ranking of the 25 best in the country, we more than doubled the number on the previous list from the year before. We stuck to strict criteria in looking for the best individual donuts in America: Freshness is key; are these legendary donuts — ones that inspire cultish devotion to the shop that sells them? We considered both plain glazed and extravagantly topped creations, but there must be a balance between all the components, be it bacon or blueberry jelly. Most importantly, these donuts need to be almost too good: fresh, soft, gooey, perfectly proportioned, and intended to leave you wanting just one more bite. There were over two dozen we believed deserved to be included on our list, and as it turns out, one can be found in Philadelphia.
There are four year-round locations of Federal Donuts in The City of Brotherly Love, (and a fifth outpost in the Phillies’ baseball park, open during home games) which makes it safe to say that they are a cultural institution in Philly, and for a good reason: these are some astonishingly delicious donuts. Sure, Federal Donuts might have risen to infamy thanks to its tasty Korean-style fried chicken, but save room for dessert. Head for the Cookies and Cream donut, which takes the popular ice cream flavor and elevates it to new heights: doughnuts gets a coat of Oreo cream-flavored glaze and a perfect dusting of powdered chocolate cookies.
It’s so good, it made it to #9 on our national list, and since it’s the only one from the city to make our ranking, it’s also the title winner of the best donut in Philadelphia.