I probably shouldn’t even review Diana’s. I’ve sampled very little of their extensive menu. I’ve never had their Soujok pizza or the mushroom steak with fries and mixed vegetables. Instead, my forays have been limited to their sandwiches, and principally the meat shawarma.
When I moved to Monrovia, Diana’s was probably the restaurant I was most excited to visit. Over pastries at Le Pain Quotidien in Washington DC, an expat who had recently left Liberia informed me that Diana’s was his favorite restaurant in Liberia.
Unfortunately for me – and perhaps the proprietors of Diana’s as well – I dined at Mama Susu’s before I ever set foot in Diana’s. Located not far from Diana’s (which is on Center Street, sandwiched between Broad and Carey streets), Mama Susu’s evokes a similar feel, and I was singularly unimpressed with the US$20 I laid out for a plate of rice with some not particularly compelling meat item.
Thus on my first visit to Diana’s, I went with one of the cheaper items on the menu – the US$5 meat (beef) shawarma. I was so impressed that I’ve never ventured away from their sandwich menu.
The keyword to describe Diana’s sandwiches is “creamy”. For anyone who doesn’t fancy the idea of a creamy sandwich, you’ll want to look elsewhere. For me, the generous creamy (tahini) sauce adds a highly welcomed moisture and texture to the shawarma, encased in Lebanese bread, which as previously mentioned, could be toasted more efficiently.
I’ve dined on the meat shawarma during about 90% of my visits to Diana’s. In addition to the slightly sour sauce, it is defined by the generous helpings of shredded beef that it is stuffed with. The folks at Diana’s mean business when they call it a meat shawarma. There’s no French fry filler in this creation. Even the onions are sliced thinly. Perhaps there’s an occasional pickle, but I didn’t detect any on my last visit.
For connoisseurs, it may not even qualify as a shawarma, but as an agglomeration of creamy, meaty goodness, it hits the spot.
In addition to sandwiches, pizzas, chicken, and seafood, there is an expansive menu of items – including some curiosities like brain, tongue, shanklish, and frakeh – that I probably will never induce myself to try. At the top of my list to sample is the steak and shrimp with fried rice, which comes in at US$18.
Diana’s is also distinguished as an oasis in the hustle and bustle of central Monrovia. It has two dining rooms, each with a distinctive décor. The main room, accessorized with a TV, is populated by straight-backed wooden chairs, while the annex has black faux plush leather ones, accessorized with a stereo that always seems to be on a US hip-hop mix. For those that don’t wish to eat in, they have a fleet of motorcycles offering free delivery.
One area to watch out for – and I can’t speak to the ladies – but the men’s room at Diana’s doesn’t enjoy the best maintenance. At the time of my most recent visit, the commode had no toilet seat. Given that the bulk of menu items are in the $15 range, customers should rightfully expect better quality facilities.
* I’m undecided at present, but the best Shawarma in Monrovia comes down either to Diana’s or Harbel Supermarket in my book.
Featurd photo by Brooks Marmon