The Great Northeast lives up to its old nickname. Read on and critic Craig LaBan will explain. Also this week: Philly’s tastiest vegan doughnuts, your first look at Nick Elmi’s Main Line restaurant, a tip about free Mexican food next week in Center City, and word of a Vietnamese BYOB that just opened on East Passyunk Avenue.

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Michael Klein

Craig LaBan’s picks for tasty takeout in Northeast Philly

Critic Craig LaBan knows the power of Northeast Philadelphia’s diverse dining options. (He basically wrote the book on it a few years ago.) He took another road trip, this time in search of quality takeout. He came back with 11 restaurants to recommend, serving such cuisines as Palestinian, Uzbek, Cantonese, and Italian American.

The finest in vegan doughnuts

Doughnuts usually are made with milk and eggs, and sometimes butter. This traditionally yielded some poor vegan versions. But no more, says colleague Grace Dickinson, who found plenty of plant-based options — and she hit up the bakers for their secrets. Even so, don’t fry this at home.

He’s making cheesesteaks to send his mom on a dream trip

After dietitian Gloria Walker was diagnosed with late-stage bladder cancer, son Dustin Vitale asked her what she really wanted to do. Her answer: take a family trip to Egypt to see the pyramids. But such excursions cost money, and Vitale is a Philadelphia middle-school teacher. He cooked up a fundraising idea: make cheesesteaks and sell them. The campaign has exploded.

Nick Elmi opens The Landing Kitchen

Who’d guess that the grounds of a former steel plant by the banks of the Schuylkill could be so rustically spectacular? Chef Nicholas Elmi (Laurel, In the Valley) and Fia Berisha (ex-Aether, Mistral, Elements) are about to open the first of two restaurants at the Ironworks at Pencoyd in Bala Cynwyd, home of a new Residence Inn by Marriott. The Landing Kitchen, an all-day cafe, rolls out Thursday, March 11. With photos by colleague David Maialetti, I give you the first look inside. It’s riveting, you might say.

Oh, and here’s a tip for you: Elmi had been hosting pop-ups of Curiosity Doughnuts at Laurel during its idled time over the winter. The Landing Kitchen will have one on March 21.

El Merkury branching out with a stand at Reading Terminal Market

Sofia Deleon, who brought Guatemalan street food to Center City in 2018 with El Merkury, will branch out in April with a stand at Reading Terminal Market. El Merkury at the Market will be set up primarily for takeout and will serve breakfast.

Restaurant report

Chris and Thanh Nguyen, who own Melody’s Grillhouse in Ambler, have come downtown with business partner Denny Le for their second BYOB, Gabriella’s, which just took over 1837 E. Passyunk Ave., the former home of Sate Kampar. They’ve only lightly redecorated, as they believe that Malaysian street motif works well with their Vietnamese-Thai approach. The Nguyens — he’s a Philly-bred Johnson & Wales culinary-arts grad and Anna, as she is known, was a student from Vietnam who was majoring in biological chemistry when they met here — are not doing a static Vietnamese menu; you’ll get a changing lineup including shareable platters of grilled meats and fish, head-on prawns, along with the dumplings, pho, and lavish fried rice dishes. Most entrees are in the $20s. Sunday brunch, starting March 14, is 11 a.m.-3 p.m. (Brunch will expand to other days.) Dinner hours are 5-10 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. Dine-in/takeout.

Worth noting:

The western suburbs and Main Line will see plenty of food and restaurant activity this spring and summer. Besides Nick Elmi’s The Landing Kitchen and Lark, Di Bruno Bros. is getting mighty close on its Wayne location. Avram Hornik is a month or so from opening Lola’s Garden at Suburban Square in Ardmore, while Kevin and Cat Huan are opening a branch of their Szechuan/Taiwanese restaurant, DanDan, next door, in May. Now, Justin Weathers and chef Joe Monnich have a summer opening penciled in for Revival Pizza Pub, which will become part of Weatherstone Town Center in Chester Springs.

» READ MORE: A rundown of the restaurants expected to open in 2021

Mission Taqueria will have a spot in the food court at the Giant supermarket opening on March 19 at Riverwalk, 23rd and Arch Streets. To advance it, they’ll set up a truck in Center City next week to hand out free prepackaged portions of tortilla soup, tortilla chips, and guacamole. On Monday, March 15 and Wednesday, March 17, the truck will be at 1601 Market St., while on Tuesday, March 16, it will be on Walnut Street between 18th and 19th Street, across from Rittenhouse Square. The giveaway starts at 11 a.m. and food will be available while supplies last.

We’re in the thick of Haddonfield Restaurant Week.

Among the restaurants reopening are Le Virtu in South Philadelphia (March 15, outdoor only) and Front Street Cafe in Fishtown (March 12 for coffee and takeout, March 15 for dine-in brunch and dinner takeout, March 22 for normal dine-in). I listed a bunch of others in last week’s “Let’s Eat.”