Tacos and ’ritas

Going back for seconds at Dos Mas.

I am going to start this article the way any local food writer shouldn’t, by saying I hate going out to eat in the middle of the summer on Martha’s Vineyard. While our Island’s bounty is at its peak, and we are known to provide awardwinning and deliciously memorable dining experiences across the board, I am jaded, because I have spent my entire life in the restaurant business. There comes a point for every industry person where most of the time, a night off in the summer means grabbing some takeout and getting as far away from all of that as possible. That’s why when we chose to review the new taco place in Oak Bluffs, we figured stopping by Dos Mas on a calm Sunday midafternoon would be our best bet. 

Friday night rolled around, and even though my air-conditioned bedroom was calling me, so was the authentic south-of-the-border food I already knew I loved from having dined at their original location, Backyard Taco in Edgartown. A few years back, Zarad Shai left his LA life working in the filmmaking business to open up a little juice bar on Winter Street in Edgartown with his brother, Evan Shai. When the neighboring space went up for sale, they decided to bring the West Coast food Zarad had been missing to the Vineyard. With the success of Backyard Taco and a vacancy on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, the brothers decided to also occupy the old Slice of Life building with their cuisine. 

As I approached Dos Mas that Friday night, the growing crowd of people in front had me convinced that it would be at least half an hour before I got my hands on a margarita, but the fresh and spicy smells that filled the air coaxed me in anyway. My assumptions were almost instantly shot down, because before I could get both feet through the door, the owner, bartender, and brother duo waved at me from behind the bar and asked if I like my margaritas spicy. Only a minute or two later I was handed a gorgeously vibrant and perfectly proportioned Cucumber Jalapeño Margarita, composed with ingredients grown onsite. It’s easy to mess up a margarita with too much sweetness, low-quality tequila, or lime juice from a bottle, but you won’t find any of that poured over your glass of crushed ice at Dos Mas. I couldn’t wait to return on Sunday to pair some food with these delicious libations. 

The fact that I went out twice, and to the same place, in one weekend is truly saying something. The calm of a Sunday evening at Dos Mas allowed me to soak in the lively decor, get to know the servers, and peek into the open kitchen from the bar as the fresh tortillas were being made. Each corner of the restaurant has a slightly different vibe, transforming a somewhat small space into an extremely diverse atmosphere. We sat in the “red corner,” and felt nothing short of VIP royalty. This can also be attributed to the excellent service and menu. I decided to go with the Classic Margarita ($10) this time, because I figured I might need something to occasionally cool my palate. Good decision on my part, because I learned that the Brian’s Ketchup I ordered on all of my tacos was actually the house hot sauce, named for a heat-loving regular. For our huge table of people, we ordered a Steak Taco, a Beef Taco, a Short Rib Taco, an Eggplant Taco, and a Fish Taco, all ranging between $4.50 and $5.50 per taco. We also ordered each with the house variations — either Mauricio’s Way with onions, cilantro, and Brian’s Ketchup for $1.50, or Ted’s Way, with pico de gallo, salsa, guacamole, cashew cheese, and Brian’s Ketchup for $2.50. We also ordered a plate of the Vegan Nachos ($10) and the house Yucca Fries ($7). OK, I lied, it wasn’t a “huge table of people,” it was just my date and me, but I am being completely honest when I tell you that we ate every last bite. The Yucca Fries had a perfectly golden and crispy crust, with a smooth velvety inside. They were topped with Mexican spice and housemade cashew cheese, which the owner made time to give us the recipe for when he stopped by our table while he was making his rounds.

The nachos were also topped with the housemade cashew cheese, which supplies you with all of the flavor and none of the guilt that a traditional plate of nachos would provide. The tacos were incomparable to anything you will taste on Martha’s Vineyard, and possibly the East Coast for that matter. You can taste the authenticity with the housemade tortillas and the unique combination of spice. The eggplant was seared just as wonderfully as the steak, and the fish was freshly fried to perfection, but the short rib taco changed my life. While the classic flavor of this slow-roasted succulence can make any dish a winner, there is something special about this particular blend of the sweet spicy and smokiness of the melt-in-your-mouth meat against the soft and yet crisp-around-the-edges tortilla. While I love that the good-size, reasonably priced, and individually portioned tacos allow you to order a variety, I might have to visit again just to order more short rib tacos than I will ever admit to in writing. 

The brothers of Backyard Taco have gifted us with a style that is new to this Island, and their Oak Bluffs location only furthers that flavor. Head down to Dos Mas for great food and company, because the Shais and their crew do not disappoint. 

Dos Mas is located on 150 Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs, and is open from 9 am to 1 am Tuesday through Sunday, and 5 pm to 1 am Mondays. 508-687-9271. dosmasmv.com.