Open kitchen at MasI’m ambivalent towards tapas. On the one hand, it’s fun to try a variety of flavors over the course of an evening, and since they’re built for sharing they promote a more social dining experience. On the other hand, my taste buds are usually sufficiently excited by the standard two or three courses of a non-tapas meal, and I’m not a good sharer. Regardless of which camp you’re in, this hip bacony beacon in Belmont will make a believer out of even the least adventurous and sharingest among us.

The physical space of Mas is unusual. Situated funkily in the hairpin elbow of Carlton Avenue and Monticello Road, the yellow-umbrella’ed patio, which would be great if it weren’t so overpowered by street lights, feeds into a glass entryway, which opens onto a long, brick-and-glass tunnel of a room. The warmly lit, massive bar runs along the entirety of the ground-level space, offering plenty of surface area to eat and drink and ogle the many meats and potatoes and cheeses sizzling in flame-engulfed cast-iron skillets. At the end of the room is a half-flight of stairs leading down to a more traditional seating area.

Bacon-wrapped datesThe menu is checklist style, with the option to order a regular or large portion of any of the dozens of Spanish small plates listed. There is the delicious brick-oven bread with artichoke spread, fried manchego cheese with apricot chutney, ham and manchego cheese croquettes, spiced potatoes with a smoked tomato alioli, and bacon-wrapped dates. To name a tiny percentage of our favorites. Not every dish is brilliant, but most are delicious, and a few especially orgasmic offerings (like the bacon-wrapped dates) will have you screaming for mas. There are also more high quality vegetarian options here than anywhere else in town.

You can count on finding a blood-orange or pomegranate cocktail, or a fine wine, to accompany your decadent dishes, and a friendly, professional waitperson to make and serve it to you. It is a testament both to how good the service is and to how well they must be treated that there seems to be very little staff turnover there. Our favorite waitpeople have been there for at least the last three to four years, which must be a record for such a young, hip staff.

I’m not familiar enough with Belmont history to know if we can credit Mas with the upward mobility of the neighborhood, but there can be no question that it has been a huge influence. And not just in that corner of town. It has raised the bar for food quality and dining ambience across the greater Charlottesville area.

Erin says: “Much has been said in praise of the bacon-wrapped dates and it’s still not enough.  My favorite dish in town from one of my favorite restaurants.”

award_star_gold_3 16Rating: Erin: Jed:

thumb_up 16 iconPros: Great food, service, and atmosphere.

thumb_down 16 iconCons: Can be a very long wait for a table on weekend nights.

money_dollar 16 iconPrice: Dinner for two with drinks: $60-$70.

car famfam 16 iconParking: Limited parking behind the restaurant, usually a spot available on the street nearby.

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