Reservations: Not needed.
Price Range: From $2.15 for a roti sandwich to $4.10 for a chicken dinner.
Credit Cards: Mastercharge, BankAmericard, Visa, Carte Blanche.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; noon to 10 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.
Special Facilities: High chairs and booster seats; just one step up from the street.
At this time of year, when wishes turn to warmer climates and sipping fruit punches and pina coladas in the sun, the Caribbean beckons. If the real things cannot be arranged, don't despair. The next best thing -- an adventure in Caribbean eating -- can be had right here in town at Dianna's Caribbean Restaurant.
Dianna's is a friendly place. The environment is attempted tropical with wooden posts and beams, calypso music in the background and a relaxed atmosphere generally -- the kind of small place where customers enjoyed the presence of our 2-year-old.
Caribbean cooking, Trinidadian in particular, is served at Dianna's. With the spicy foods from India, the Creoles from France and Spain and many vegetables and fruits from Africa, the food was a happy melange for us Americans.
We started with the fresh fruit punch, our daughter's favorite drink. Other Caribbean drinks include ginger beer, a drink popular in the English-speaking islands at Christmas, made of ginger root, limes and yeast.
A specifically Trinidadian Christmas drink called sorrel is made from fresh or dried hibiscus petals, cinnamon, cloves and sometimes rum. Another drink, mauby, is made from the bark of the carob tree. All these drinks are 45 cents for a small glass and 60 cents for a large one.
The house specialty, which we adored, was the bombe at $1.65. A foamy and deliciously refreshing drink, it is made from sea moss, which is a form of tropical seaweed, egg, milk, nutmeg and cinnamon all whirled in a blender. Without the egg it is called sea moss and costs $1.35.
Drinks in hand, we started with the spicy akkra, deep-fried codfish cakes at $1.15 for three. Although a bit bready, they were delicious. The fish cakes are made with onions and hot peppers and the recipe varies slightly from island to island.
One of the main courses we ordered was curried beef with potatoes wrappedd in a roti, for $2.15. An East Indian flat bread, the roti usually is filled with chicken, goat or meat curry and eaten like a sandwich.
Although the curry was extremely tasty we have eaten moister rotis. At Dianna's the rotis are made early in the day and reheated for each customer, allowing the dough to become dry. Rotis are better when they are fried individually on a griddle just before serving. The roti is Trinidad's prime street food, eaten as we eat hot dogs or ice cream.
The barbecued chicken was delicious, at $3.45. The chicken, however, after baking should have been broiled a few minutes before serving to give it a crisper texture. The pigeon peas and rice accompanying the chicken are typical of Trinidad. The pigeon peas originally came from Africa.
An order of chicken as a dinner comes with one vegetable for $4.10. Plantains, a type of green bananas, were not on the menu that day unfortunately. Instead we ate an extraordinarily delicious stewed cabbage with tomatoes and onions, which tasted faintly sweet and sour.
For dessert we tried the carrot cake, the only homemade offering that day at 65 cents. It was disappointingly dry, lacking in the moist texture so necessary for this cake to succeed. Another dessert we would have tried, had it been available that day, was pone, a cassava and coconut cake.
Next time we go to Dianna's we'll try the goat stew, the most popular offering of the restaurant and a standard Sunday dish in the Caribbean.
Our bill totaled $14.07, not including tip -- not bad for an exotic dinner for two adults and one child in the heart of Washington.