A Tale of Two Donuts

We went to Philadelphia over Valentine’s Day weekend this year. It was also a long weekend, and we thought we’d make the most of our day off. A friend of ours has a sister who lives in the city and had always claimed he knew where the best donuts in Philadelphia could be had.

As two lovers of fried dough products, we couldn’t resist trying this place that had been highly recommended to us for years. So we made sure to stop by Federal Donuts at some point over the weekend.

We also wanted to check out Reading Terminal Market, and when we got there we discovered another very highly rated donut shop with an excitingly long line (given that long lines usually mean a place is popular if not delicious). So we jumped in line and tried Beiler’s Donuts as well.

I came to the conclusion that one of the two places was significantly better than the other – read on to find out how each rated in different categories and which was the overall winner!

Line Length

Behind the counter at Federal Donuts

Federal Donuts: 10 minutes plus 3 minutes for a hot fresh donut

Beiler’s Donuts: 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for a hot fresh apple fritter

Winner: Federal Donuts (not much difference)


Boston creme at Beiler’s

Federal Donuts: $1.50-2.50 per donut

Beiler’s Donuts: $0.95 per donut

Winner: Beiler’s

Ok, but seriously, compared to DC prices or basically anywhere else – this is amazing, no matter which shop you go to.

Type of Donut

Chocolate covered at Beiler’s

Federal Donuts: Cake donuts

Beiler’s Donuts: Both yeast and cake donuts available

Winner: Beiler’s Donuts

I mean, for one thing, I prefer yeasted donuts. And for the other thing, having the option for both kinds is a clear winner.


Hot fresh donut at Federal Donuts

Federal Donuts: Offers both pre-made (“fancy” donuts with interesting toppings, made in the morning) and hot fresh donuts.

Beiler’s Donuts: Makes donuts throughout the day, so depending on when you hit it you might get a fresh one or one from earlier that day.

Winner: Basically equivalent. Tie.

Number of Options

Lemon meringue donut from Federal Donuts

Federal Donuts: About 6 types of fancy and 3 types of fresh.

Beiler’s Donuts: At least 20 kinds of donuts.

Winner: Beiler’s, unless you get paralyzed by too many choices, then I guess Federal. But for me it’s Beiler’s – I could definitely come back all the time to try the different flavors (though to be fair Federal’s fancy donuts are seasonal and rotating).


Apple fritter at Beiler’s

AKA probably the only category that really matters? So this one’s worth double points.

Federal Donuts: The fancy donut (lemon meringue) had a nice lemon flavor and was pretty good, but not that special. The hot fresh cinnamon sugar donut was really tasty.

Beiler’s Donuts: My chocolate covered glazed was one level of freaking amazing, and the hot fresh apple fritter we waited for was mindblowingly delicious.

Winner: Beiler’s, by a lot.

Final Score

Federal Donuts: 1.5

Beiler’s Donuts: 5.5

WINNER: Beiler’s hits a home run!

This very scientific study has left me to conclude that the best donuts in Philadelphia can be had at Beiler’s in Reading Terminal Market. But you might as well try both, for science.

What are your favorite donuts?

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