Perspective from Miami: Why Federal Donuts fizzled in Florida

Along with sister shop Dizengoff, the Philly-born spot only lasted six months.

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Danya Henninger
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Four female friends went in search of a fresh donut and fried chicken sandwich in the Wynwood section of Miami.

They’d already sweated their way through sugary shots at various bars, perused multiple multimedia gallery installations, and spent at least an hour jiving at Gramps. But it was only 1 a.m. on a Friday, so the night was still young. A post-snack rally at the Electric Pickle nightclub was still on the table.

Federal Donuts was not.

At the door to the shop, which opened its first location outside Philly in mid-2017, the women were greeted by the ugliest sight anyone with drunchies knows: a sign reading CLOSED.

“This is what always happens when I come out here,” said one of the women, University of Miami student Melissa Prieto. “Every time I want to go, they’re always closed!”

Prieto was talking about the time of day — the shop’s posted hours stopped at 8 p.m. on weekends.

But now, it wouldn’t matter what time customers showed up. The Miami outposts of Federal Donuts and its sister fast casual, the hummusiya Dizengoff, shut down operations completely on March 5.

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Danya Henninger

Per Dani Mulholland, communications director for parent company CookNSolo, the move is not necessarily permanent. The company’s official statement attributed the closures to the “construction that has surrounded us for the last six months,” and kept open the possibility of a relaunch.

So if there wasn’t any more construction, would the Magic City versions of the Philly-born restaurants thrive? Maybe.

Wynwood is Miami’s prime destination for mostly-affordable nightlife options. Far from the outlandish foreign millionaires in South Beach and the snobbish nouveau riche in Brickell, the area is a welcome escape for Miamians — and tourists — searching for a more grounded scene (save for the occasional stuck-up hipster).

It seemed like the perfect spot to drop the FedNuts/Dizengoff combo. And the move was welcomed with much fanfare, by both fans and professionals.

Laine Doss of Miami New Times wrote in an opening review that, along with Korean fried chicken and “fragrant, tart” donuts, FedNuts served nothing less than “warm hospitality.”

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Danya Henninger

“Way to put the mmmmm in hummus,” tweeted Ellen Kanner, vegan columnist for the Miami Herald.

Eater Miami even placed both FedNuts and Dizengoff on its hottest restaurants in Wynwood list, with the most recent edition coming out just weeks before their “temporary” close.

But even some fervent South Florida fans admitted to not patronizing the CookNSolo spots all that often.

Kirstin Arbide, a clinical research coordinator at the University of Miami, said she was “surprised and disappointed” to hear Dizengoff had closed, but noted she’d never made it over herself. She also suggested the popularity of The Salty Donut had put Federal Donuts at a disadvantage. Located less than a block away, the three-year-old Salty Donut is famous for confections in flavors like white chocolate tres leches, maple bacon and guava and cheese.

“They didn’t get the word out,” said Prieto, one of the women who’d been disappointed that recent Friday night. “I was talking about it closing to my co-worker, and she was just like… wuts Federal Donuts?”

Then there’s the lack of late hours.

“Wynwood is mainly a night spot,” Prieto said. “I tried going to Federal Donuts three times after a night out. I was successful only once, and we were rushed because they were gonna close in ten minutes. And they had run out of fried chicken.”

In the Miami New Times review, chef-owner Michael Solomonov is quoted as saying: “Our Miami customer is not that different than in Philadelphia.”

If CookNSolo does attempt a resurrection in the Magic City, perhaps they’ll consider the potential differences more closely.