About Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria

4650 C Arendell Street
Morehead City, NC 28557
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Clarke Merrell's (Circa 81 Executive Chef/Proprietor) goal is for Circa 81 to provide creative, quality, & delicious food in a beautiful setting. Offering small plates that are perfect for passing around the table in true tapas style, our dishes are meant to inspire and engage our diners. So, start a conversation, relax, and enjoy a fresh take on cuisine. Clarke developed Circa 81 in hopes that guests will try something new and different and truly have a dining experience. Circa 81 offers great wine and cocktails too, with more than 30 specialty drinks on our cocktaileria menu. Our menu also includes medium and large plate selections - delicious sandwiches, homemade soups, local seafood and fresh-made desserts.

Circa 81 also offers take-out and catering - just contact us for more details.

Dining Style:
Casual Elegant

Cuisines:
Tapas / Small Plates, Seafood

Hours of Operation:
Monday: 11:30am - 9:00pm
Tuesday: CLOSED
Wed-Thurs: 11:30am - 9:00pm
Friday - Saturday: 11:30am - 9:30pm
Sunday Brunch: 10:30am - 2pm, full menu available all day Sunday until 9pm

Cross Street:
Across from EJW Outdoors

Dress Code:
Casual Dress

Price Range:
$30 and under

Payment Options
AMEX, MasterCard, Visa

Phone Number:
(252) 648-8300

Website:
http://www.circa-81.com/

Catering:
Circa 81 offers full service catering. Let us cater your next event. We will cook and clean, and you can take all of the credit. Think of us when you are planning your next, wedding, rehearsal dinner, bridal luncheon, office party, dinner party, baby shower etc. Also popular is our drop off menu. We will drop off your food so you can eat at your own leisure. This has been a big hit for the big family beach gatherings. Email Clarke@circa-81.com or call 252.648.8300 for your catering needs. Gather, Eat, Enjoy!

Parking Details:
Big private lot. Will accommodate large vehicles

Public Transit:
Taxi Cabs (sorry MHC does not offer public transportation)

We are located 2.5 miles west of the Atlantic Beach bridge.

Executive Chef:
Clarke Merrell

Additional:
Bar Dining, Beer, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking Area, Non-Smoking Restaurant, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Personal wines welcome, Personal wines welcome (corkage fee applies), Smoking Area, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access, Wine, Wine Bar

Special Events & Promotions:
Host your next special event with us. We offer both private and semi-private setups for rehearsal dinners, engagement parties, baby/bridal showers or just a special celebration. Email Clarke@circa-81.com or call 252.648.8300 for details.

Restaurant Photos

Mixed Grille
Strawberry Mojito
She Crab Soup
Pork Ossobucco
Hatteras Burger
Blueberry Yum Yum
crab cake
Seafood Mac And Cheese
Crispy Calamari
Soft Shell Crab Over Chedder Jalapeno Grits
Key Lime Pie
Chicken Sandwich And Broccoli Salad
Stuffed Baked Brie
Shrimp And Scallop Ceviche
Jamones Ibericos
Medjool Dates  Bacon, almond, chevre, sunchoke
Gnocchi
Crab Cake: Homemade with jumbo lump crab, served with wasabi aioli and grilled pineapple relish

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria Ratings and Reviews

5
4
3
2
1

4.3

Overall Rating

based on recent ratings
food

4.4

service

4.2

ambience

4.3

value

3.9

noise

Moderate

89% would recommend it to a friend

Loved For

Fit for Foodies
Coastal North Carolina
Notable Wine List
Coastal North Carolina
Romantic
Coastal North Carolina
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Most Booked
Beaufort / Morehead City
Best Restaurants in Beaufort / Morehead City ›

fit for foodies (21)
special occasion (18)
romantic (18)
See All
neighborhood gem (12)
good for groups (11)
notable wine list (9)
great for brunch (9)
great for lunch (7)
vibrant bar scene (4)
hot spot (4)
late-night find (4)
great for outdoor dining (1)
kid-friendly (1)
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The best meal I've all year. Service wa ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined 5 days ago

The best meal I've all year. Service was wonderfuland we can't wait to return.

Tags: fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

Two meat dishes were on point. Duck and ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined 5 days ago

Two meat dishes were on point. Duck and porky belly. Everything else was rather suspect.

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food2
ambience3
service3
value2

This was our second visit. My husband an ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined 6 days ago

This was our second visit. My husband and I love craft beer, good wine, and cheese boards and Circa 81 has a great selection of all of these things along with unique combinations of foods on their extensive small plates menu. We have yet to try something we didn't love! The chef is also the owner and takes great pride in his work. He came out at the end of our meal to make sure we enjoyed everything! We hope to try the brunch soon!

Tags: great for brunch, fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

Great evening at this fun restaurant. We ...

 
 (South Carolina)
·Dined on July 16, 2016

Great evening at this fun restaurant. We were a party of 8 and half the group had never been to the restaurant. Our waitress explained the different sized plates and assisted with our ordering process. While there may have been a long wait to get our cocktail order placed--perhaps due to a question about a particular liqueur on hand--once our food order was placed there was no trouble with timing on any other part of our meal. This is a great testament to the cook staff. We ordered specials, small and large plates--all came out together, hot, and delicious. This restaurant consistently pleases with innovative dishes and good service. Great ambiance. We'll be back.

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food5
ambience5
service4

Had been wanting to try this place and h ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on July 16, 2016

Had been wanting to try this place and had a good opportunity with family in town! What a treat!!

Tags: fit for foodies, good for groups, late-night find, neighborhood gem, hot spot
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food5
ambience4
service5
value4

Very disappointed; won't be back. There ...

 
 (New York Area)
·Dined on July 8, 2016

Very disappointed; won't be back. There was minimal A/C and the place was packed, noise level very high and the lighting so dim I needed a flashlight to read the menu. Portions are VERY small and some of the food we ordered never made it to our table, but we were charged for it anyway (the charges were removed when we pointed it out). I can't believe they charged $1 a slice of bread ( which they cut in half). Despite a bill of $140 we went home feeling hungry and raided the fridge.

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food4
ambience1
service2
value2

On vacation for the Fourth. Ate out four ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on July 1, 2016

On vacation for the Fourth. Ate out four nights and this was by far the best. We liked it so much that we went two of the four nights. We ordered several tapas and passed them around. Everyone expressed how much they liked the food. My friends also thought the cocktails were outstanding. I searched for "the best restaurants in the area" and Circa 81 took reservations, so I booked them for the first night. The last night of our stay, July 4th, we all wanted to go back instead of trying another disappointing choice.

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

Very good food, deserts were GREAT! Big ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on June 25, 2016

Very good food, deserts were GREAT! Big issue was lack of attention to clearing plates after we tried many different Tapas. My daughter cleared serving plates on more than once, so we had room on the table.

Tags: fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
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food4
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service3
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Fantastic food, great service!!! The ne ...

vip
 (Chicago)
·Dined on June 24, 2016

Fantastic food, great service!!! The new chef has made Circa a standout in a sea of mediocre restraunts on the Crystal Coast.

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food5
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I took my husband for Father's Day brunc ...

 
 (South Carolina)
·Dined on June 19, 2016

I took my husband for Father's Day brunch and it was phenomenal! I had the fried grits with crab cakes and poached eggs... it did not dissapoint! My 9 year old daughter had the shrimp and grits and that was tasty too! All around great restaurant! It is a little on the small side, but as long as you are sure to have a reservation, especially on special occasions that should not matter! Service was great and the food came out in such a timely manner! I can't wait to go back! Thank you Circa 81!

Tags: great for brunch, kid-friendly, fit for foodies, great for lunch
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

dinner with husband

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on June 10, 2016

As always the food was delicious, especially enjoyed the small plate special of Shoshito roasted peppers with a ginger soy sauce. Seafood Mac n Cheese was very good and also the Shrimp & Grits, and the Black Bean Quesadilla. Good atmosphere and good service as always. Highly recommended.

Tags: great for brunch, fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, notable wine list
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food5
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value5

We are consistently disappointed

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on June 5, 2016

Because this restaurant gets such positive reviews, we keep trying it. Unfortunately we are now 0 for 3. Don't expect to try a fourth time.

Let's begin with the service. Asked for our drink orders before being seated, asked for our food order within 2 minutes of being seated, all food (soup salad, tapas, and entrees) came out of the kitchen at the same time. Service was faster than you get in a drive through, and not appreciated in this context.

Food was also disappointing. Soy ginger salad dressing was sweet, as was the stock used for the mussels. Steak was ordered rare and was served medium and salty, seared ahi tuna tasted old and was returned to the kitchen. Calamari was crisp but salty, she-crab soup was good. Felt like the menu was overly complicated and they missed on every dish.

We filled out the comment card with our contact information in hopes that management would contact us for feedback. Haven't heard from them. This restaurant gets a lot of good reviews and we just don't understand why. But we've tried it for the last time.

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food1
ambience4
service2
value1

Very nice place! Worth the 20 minute or ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on June 4, 2016

Very nice place! Worth the 20 minute or so drive from Emerald Isle! So glad we found it. Ate 90% vegetarian and it was awesome. Good choices! Glad my wife enjoyed it who was vegetarian. I did sneak in some pot sticks for myself :) will return!

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food5
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perfect, perfect, perfect

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on May 27, 2016

We celebrated the most special of special occasions at Circa -- a reunion of high-school sweethearts after a separation of 48 years and 2600 miles.

Circa gave us the best first date ever. From the moment Rachel let us to a custom-selected romantic table, through Paul's introduction to the evening's specials, through a champagne toast, wines, enchantingly presented small plates, all the way to Bailey's and coffee, the evening was a total joy--a gift of love for lovers.

Thank you so very much, Paul, Rachel, and kitchen staff. You provided delight beyond measure. We look forward to future visits--in far less than 48 years!

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

The food is always good. Great cheese ...

 
 (Orange County)
·Dined on May 21, 2016

The food is always good. Great cheese boards. One of the best wine list around. Having moved recently from San Clemente, California (wine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) we were worried that we would not be able to find a nice wine list---look no further.

Tags: great for brunch, fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, notable wine list
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food5
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service4
value4

Great food, great service, as always.

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on May 12, 2016

Great food, great service, as always.

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food5
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Fantastic array of tapas... Yummy and a ...

vip
 (Charlotte)
·Dined on May 8, 2016

Fantastic array of tapas... Yummy and a great selection! Really has variety too.

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food4
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service4

One of Our Favorites

vip
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on May 7, 2016

Love Circa 81. We dine here frequently and are never disappointed. The menu has something for everyone. My wife is a vegetarian and the Tapas offer enough variety for vegetarians. The staff is welcoming, informative and provides an excellent level of service and food prep. We travel frequently to big cities and dine at gourmet restaurants. Circa 81 could compete in any big city and get high marks.

Tags: fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem
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food5
ambience4
service5
value4

Great food..less than great service

 
 (Phoenix)
·Dined on April 29, 2016

There were four women dining together for a birthday. The hostess was pleasant, the seating was fine. Restaurant is very small, very little in ambience. No reason to sit outside - you are looking at the parking lot. The food was excellent. The service, unfortunately was poor. The waitress, once placing the tapas, would disappear until the next dish was ready. We wanted plates cleaned off, wanted another cocktail - we replaced our own plates from another table, we had to ask someone else for more wine.

Each dish was excellent and attractively presented. Nice wine and cocktail list.

Tags: fit for foodies, good for groups, neighborhood gem
1 person found this review helpful.
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food5
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GREAT FOOD

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on April 15, 2016

Great food and service! Tapas were outstanding! Shrimp & Grits was incredible! The sauce was great. Wide variety of wines and cocktails. Service was great; friendly and responsive - staff doesn't try to rush you. Very comfortable dinner. Really nice atmosphere. We will definitely go back...have already recommended to friends and co-workers. Best restaurant in this area, but would rank it near the top anywhere.

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, notable wine list
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food5
ambience4
service5
value5

Very friendly staff.

 
 (St. Louis)
·Dined on March 30, 2016

Very friendly staff.

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food4
ambience5
service5

It was AMAZING!

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on March 25, 2016

I have NEVER had good this amazing before (no joke). Their menu is so unique and good for you because it natural (not "low fat" but natural lol). It was a tad to dark but easy fix lol.

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, great for lunch, scenic view, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
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food5
ambience4
service5
value5

Great Tapas

vip
 (Atlanta)
·Dined on March 17, 2016

Their tapas menu was awesome! We wanted to try just about all of them. The beef skewers, crab dip, tuna, dates, and sweet potato quesadilla! Everything was perfect. Nice night out for the 4 of us.

Tags: fit for foodies, good for groups, neighborhood gem
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food5
ambience4
service4
value4

Anniversary celebration

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on March 16, 2016

A great place for any occasion but we went for our anniversary. We were so impressed with the meal and will definitely be coming back! Lee was wonderful!!

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, great for lunch, notable wine list
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food5
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service5
value5

Dang, what a find!

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on March 13, 2016

First time dining with them, and, wow, it's like Billy Joel's "Piano Man": "Man, what are you doing here?" We certainly have a number of fine options in Beaufort (Beaufort Grocery and Aqua come to mind) and Morehead (Floyd's 1921), but, tucked away sideways in a strip mall you've hardly ever noticed, right on Arendell, with a pretty non-descript name, is a great dining experience. Food was exceptional, service was outstanding, check with tip was...about what you'd expect (as in $$$ or something like that). We only had tapas (well, and creme brulee for dessert; this was also the only service minor misstep. and was immediately corrected), a tuna taco special, gnocchi, shrimp and grits and one of their ham (as in jamon) charcuterie plates. Every last bite was a pleasure. Atmosphere is very pleasant also, not roaring like Persimmon's and 247 Craven can get.

Tags: fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem, hot spot
1 person found this review helpful.
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food5
ambience5
service5
value4

East Coast Dining Delight!!

 
 (South Carolina)
·Dined on March 5, 2016

Circa 81 is a tapas style eatery with a fabulous cocktail menu. It is the perfect dining experience for us locals as well as a great romantic place to enjoy in our vacation town. The portions are ample and delicious. Service is excellent!!! We picked 7 items from the tapas menu and each was perfectly cooked and seasoned.

Tags: great for brunch, fit for foodies, romantic, great for lunch, notable wine list
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food5
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Good Food, Poor Service

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on February 15, 2016

Our food was very good but the wait staff was more what you would expect in the local diner than an upscale restaurant.

Tags: special occasion
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food4
ambience3
service2
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Great food

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on February 15, 2016

Food was excellent. Our sever disappeared for a little while but the place was pretty busy. Would definitely recommend. We will be back!

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem
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food4
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service3
value4

Excellent overall! Food was great! Service slow.

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on February 12, 2016

Took about 15 minutes for someone to come and take care of us. Once they got there, everything went great after that. The food was EXCELLENT! Loved the small plate options to share (3 of us) and still had the larger plate options. We also shared the large plate. Thought the price was fair. Would definitely go back and would recommend.

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem
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food5
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Black Bean Chorizo Soup

 
 (Orlando)
·Dined on January 24, 2016

Black Bean Soup, was pureed beyond recognition. There was one thin slice of Chorizo laying on top and a teaspoon (not exaggerating this amount) of Sour Cream. We returned both bowls, unfinished by far. The black liquid did not even appear appetizing and the taste confirmed that true. The rest of our food was fine.

Tags: late-night find
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food3
ambience5
service2
value3

Unexpected food with great prices.

 
 (Greensboro)
·Dined on January 23, 2016

Foodies will love the diverse menu and great atmosphere. Service was top notch and we enjoyed the bar menu with creative choices. Will surely be back to experience all it has to offer.

Tags: great for brunch, fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
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food5
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service5
value5

The food was amazing. Excellent flavors ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on December 25, 2015

The food was amazing. Excellent flavors and portions. Also great drink selection.

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food5
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DISAPPOINTMENT

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on December 24, 2015

Three of us dined together on Xmas eve. Two had shrimp/pasta entree and I had mahi-mahi. The 2 with the shrimp were satisfied. My fish tasted "fishy"- I should have sent it back. Our server did not deliver a vegatable substitute that we discussed. She also did not seperate our 2 checks correctly.

Tags: fit for foodies
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food3
ambience4
service3
value4

Unassuming Excellence

 
 (Richmond)
·Dined on December 12, 2015

We are directed to Circa 81 by a former local resident. On arrival in an simple strip mall similar to many others in this locale, with no water or other attractive view, we wondered what was in store. We were greeted immediately, our reservation recognized and seated with no delay.

Server was Alex and she did an outstanding job with drinks and explaining the dining options, with recommendations. We tried 5 different small plates (tapas) and each was excellent, well seasoned, adequate in size and served in a very timely manner. We were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the evening.

Tags: good for groups, special occasion, neighborhood gem
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food5
ambience3
service5

They do it well...

vip
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on November 25, 2015

...that food thing. The chef is innovative, the food is fabulous, the staff are well-trained. Encore!!

Tags: fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, late-night find, hot spot, vibrant bar scene, notable wine list
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food5
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Love the tapas concept and absolutely ad ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on November 22, 2015

Love the tapas concept and absolutely adore that our server was also our bartender. The light acoustic playlist was the perfect volume to enjoy a couple drinks, nibble on tapas throughout the night, and have good conversation. Food was excellent (presentation and taste), big plus that they shop locally for most of their ingredients.

Tags: fit for foodies, good for groups, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem
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food5
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service5

short on staff

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on November 7, 2015

It has been a while since our last visit. There was a definite staff shortage. Not good to have no bartender on a Friday night. Wait people had to make cocktails taking them away from their tables.

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food4
ambience3
service2

Another nice visit to a very reliable r ...

vip
 (Richmond)
·Dined on November 5, 2015

Another nice visit to a very reliable restaurant! Excellent!

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food5
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service4

With such great tapas, who needs the large plates?

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on November 1, 2015

The idea of being able to enjoy 5 different entrees is better than great! It's a killer concept. As always, my wife and I were astounded by the presentation, textures, and taste of each of the 5 small plates we ordered...I practically had to beg her to let me have some of the mussels I ordered. The staff went out of their way to make my 70th birthday and our 47th anniversary both enjoyable and memorable. Thanks Clark and staff!!!!!

Tags: kid-friendly, fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
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food5
ambience5
service5

This was our fifth visit to Circa 81 and ...

vip
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on October 31, 2015

This was our fifth visit to Circa 81 and we will definitely return. Everything was excellent except for the crab cake. The high quality of everything weve

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food3
ambience5
service5

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