Lately, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in Lansdowne. No, not to go to Sycamore — although I do love it there — or NoBL, where I still haven’t been. Instead, I’ve been frequenting a place right in between the two: Argana, a Moroccan restaurant that popped up earlier this year at the corner of Lansdowne Avenue and Baltimore Pike.
I was pretty skeptical when I saw the sign indicating that the longtime Lansdowne Diner was giving way to Argana. The diner was one of my favorite greasy spoons in Delaware County.
But more than that, after three trips to Morocco, which covered Tangier in the north to Dakhla in the Western Sahara, I had been summarily unimpressed with and annoyed by Moroccan restaurants in the Philadelphia area, which have tended to be prix-fixe affairs with bad Moroccan wine (though I am not sure that good Moroccan wine exists), mediocre food, slow service, and dusty rugs and Moroccan tchotchkes everywhere, offering more of a Moroccan theme park experience than anything resembling a good meal.
Argana has changed that. There’s no theme park here. There’s really very little in the way of a Moroccan feel outside of the food, actually. Most of the Lansdowne Diner’s aesthetic remains, and you can sit at the old diner counter if you’d like, where the Moroccan cookies rest under cover until you’re ready for dessert. And the waitresses seem like the same ones that worked at the diner. In fact, I’m almost sure of it.
So if it’s girls’ night out and you’re looking for seven courses and belly dancers, go elsewhere. (Although Argana does host the occasional belly dancing performance, which I haven’t seen). That said, Argana does make for a good spot for a casual date night (and it’s BYOB) or family dinner with non-fussy kids.
I’ve tried nearly everything on the menu, which isn’t exactly long, and I’ve never been anything but impressed. Plus, you can’t argue with the prices. Sandwiches like merguez (a sausage common to the country) and shwarma all come in at under $7, and the highest priced entrees are the lamb kabobs and seafood tajines, all of which are $12.95.
But my favorite dishes are the $11.75 chicken tajine with preserved lemons and olives and the always fresh carrot and beet salads, which you can try individually ($3.75 small, $6.75 large) or as part of the five-salad $9.75 Moroccan mixed salad.
Another great reason to go to Delaware County. Wait, did I just say that?