One specialty you shouldn't miss: the bolani kadoo pumpkin turnover. Fall's perfect snack? Yes.
1303 Polk, SF. 415-345-9947, www.deafghanan.net
OLD MANDARIN ISLAMIC
It's pretty much an open secret that the popular but not too popular Old Mandarin is one of the most unique chow spots in the city. Um, Islamic Chinese food? Let's go! It's easy to go ape wild for the tiny, lively Outer Sunset resto's specialties: hot pot, with a soup base, various spices and sauces, and a plateful of "animal parts" to cook yourself, and warm pot hot pot's already-fully-assembled sibling. But for me the à la carte lamb dishes are the true stars, including super-spicy Mongolian lamb and delectably tangy cumin lamb. The unbeatable lamb dumplings (a.k.a. pot stickers) benefit from a night in the refrigerator, so get some to go.
3132 Vicente, SF. (415) 564-3481
HAYES AND KEBAB
This Hayes Valley newbie offers some sturdy Mediterranean favorites in a relaxed atmosphere, and is a lovely no-brainer for a not-too-dressy pre- or post-symphony bite. I'm a sucker for the chicken gyro served as a salad, with melt-in-your-mouth shredded chicken topping a robust mix of greens and veggies, dressed in a simple lemon-oil combo. The kebab plates are killer, too, with skewered lamb or beef delivered with a colorful side combo of rice and bulgar pilafs. "Alexander's favorite" is another yummer: Thin-sliced marinated lamb and beef with bread cubes in fresh tomato sauce and yogurt. I don't know who Alexander is, but I like him.
406 Hayes, SF. (415) 861-2977, www.hayeskebab.com