Burlingame might be closer to the Bay than the Bosphorus, but now you don't have to leave for some kofte and tarama. Istanbul Turkish Cuisine recently opened in the former Grape Escape Wine Bar. It's from the same Turkish owners, who decided to switch from wine to their native cuisine, but oenophiles don't need to fret -- the Grape Escape wine list has carried over. The traditional menu has lunch specials like eggplant wraps and falafel sandwiches with fries for less than $8, while dinner can start with baba ghanoush and dolmas, followed by lamb shish kebabs or an octopus-and-vegetable casserole, and housemade baklava for dessert. The semi-formal interior sports bare cherry wood tables and a warm, convivial Mediterranean vibe. 1125 Burlingame Ave., Burlingame; (650) 347-3637.
Barbeque fans always insist that you'll find top notch 'cue in the strangest of places, and Big Tharman's BBQ, located inside of J&G Liquor Store in Redwood City, definitely fits the bill. After appearing at various Bay Area festivals with its distinctive mobile grill jury-rigged to a wheelchair, the barbecue joint now has a semi-permanent home, with one lone inside table and a brisk take-out business. The menu focuses on pork spare ribs, prepared untrimmed, though there's also sausage, fried and barbecued chicken, and the usual roster of hearty sides and cornbread. Mild and hot sauce is available for the meat. Big Tharman's is strictly BYOB right now, but luckily, the nearest liquor store isn't far away. 1402 Main St., Redwood City; (650) 669-0054.
One of Palo Alto's favorite dim sum restaurants, Tai Pan, now has a sleeker, more casual offshoot on University Avenue, and Steam is serving dim sum both day and night. Given the name, it's unsurprising that steamed dishes are the focus of the menu, whether as spinach-and-seafood dumplings or classic Shanghai xiao long bao dumplings. A short à la carte menu features starters like barbecue ribs and salt & pepper tofu, followed by noodle and rice dishes, mains like an eggplant and chicken claypot, and egg custard buns or thousand layer cake for dessert. Prices rarely creep over $10 per item, and the front patio has prime people watching over Lytton Plaza. 209 University Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 322-1888.