Let me just go ahead and get it out of the way at the beginning. The only part of this lunch at Maima's I did not enjoy, was the fact that this day they were out of palm wine. Unfortunately they cannot import Liberia's own Club Beer, so the palm wine is the only alcoholic beverage that comes from home. If you have ever drank something in Africa or Asia referred to as "toddy," this is about the same thing, a usually less-than-delicious and very strong alcoholic beverage with one goal in mind.
At the time of this writing (and the time of me wandering up to the wrong shop across the street and asking the neighboring hair dresser if Maima's had been closed for long), the address on Google Maps was incorrect as the restaurant has completed a transition to a brand new space. When the hair dresser figured out what I was looking for, she raised her head and pointed at the clearly visible new storefront I had somehow missed.
The new space is very polished, yet inviting, and a Liberian flag is draped across each table. We arrived fairly indecisive and were thankful to receive a remedy which seems time honored and well served, the plate below which had samples of all her typical sauces of Liberia. With varying levels of sweetness, spiciness, and bitterness, all four options, including palm butter, palava, and peanut sauces, would have made a good selection, but we decided to take her other recommendation of whole fish in the end.
We also wanted to try the dish that Maima's seem to have become famous for, the pepper shrimp ($12, below), supposedly a fiery way to ignite your day or night. They certainly leave a tingle, but I have to say that they are either over-hyped as spicy or have been dumbed down over time for the non-Liberian crowd. That being said, the little guys do please, served whole and with shell on. Some Liberians eat these whole (pop it all in the mouth whole), so I did this for about half of mine, agreeable to my fingers which were getting very messy.
NOT the national dish of Liberia
The plate of whole grilled fish ($12, below) was a work of art I did not want to touch at first. Eventually it was devoured and thankfully so as the meat was so well-spiced and moist. It left us both drooling with each bite. The plate comes with two sides that you select, and the fish is blanketed with a layer of pickled vegetables and two sauces with different spice factors. One of these only required a tiny dab in a big spoon of other items to create a ball of fire in the mouth.
When we had originally asked her if this was too much food and explained our hunger situation, "maybe you eat it all" was her simple answer. We did not even come close.
If I lived closer, I could see myself coming in here for a quick beer and possibly an appetizer from time to time. The bar area is very inviting for one person to sit, and the room is very comfortable. Maima and what could be her daughter create a very friendly and warm atmosphere for all their guests. The big theater that was involved when she came to the table to put everything in takeout containers for us was almost too much, but each morsel was carefully packed away for us.