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, BYO Wine, Corkage Fee, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking, Outdoor dining, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access, Wine

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
Chicken Sandwich And Broccoli Salad
Key Lime Pie
Shrimp And Scallop Ceviche
Stuffed Baked Brie
Gnocchi
Medjool Dates  Bacon, almond, chevre, sunchoke
Jamones Ibericos
Crab Cake: Homemade with jumbo lump crab, served with wasabi aioli and grilled pineapple relish

Specials

MOJITO MONDAY

Mondays from 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM

Sangria Sunday Funday!

Sundays from 12:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Cheers to Thursday! $5 Martinis

Thursdays from 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM

Specials

MOJITO MONDAY

Mondays from 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM

Details

All mojitos are just $5. Excludes Tax and Tip. Special valid Aug 15, 2016 - Dec 12, 2016 on Mondays from 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM.

Sangria Sunday Funday!

Sundays from 12:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Details

$10 pitchers of any sangria (traditional, white or cava) after 12 noon!. Excludes Tax and Tip. Special valid Aug 14, 2016 - Dec 11, 2016 on Sundays from 12:00 PM - 9:00 PM.

Cheers to Thursday! $5 Martinis

Thursdays from 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM

Details

$5 Martinis all day!. Excludes Tax and Tip. Special valid Aug 18, 2016 - Dec 15, 2016 on Thursdays from 11:30 AM - 9:00 PM.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria Ratings and Reviews

5
4
3
2
1

4.4

Overall Rating

based on recent ratings
food

4.4

service

4.2

ambience

4.3

value

4.1

noise

Moderate

91% would recommend it to a friend

Loved For

Romantic
Coastal North Carolina
Most Booked
Beaufort / Morehead City
Best Restaurants in Beaufort / Morehead City ›

Fit for Foodies (25)
Special Occasion (24)
Neighborhood Gem (15)
See All
Romantic (14)
Good for Groups (13)
Notable Wine List (10)
Great for Brunch (8)
Hot Spot (5)
Good for Birthdays (5)
Vibrant Bar Scene (4)
Kid-friendly (4)
Great for Lunch (4)
Tapas (4)
Late-night Find (3)
Creative Cuisine (3)
Casual (3)
Local Ingredients (2)
Good Vegetarian Options (2)
Tasting Menu (2)
Bar Seating (2)
Great Beer (2)
Good for Anniversaries (2)
Quiet Conversation (1)
Cozy (1)
Handcrafted Cocktails (1)
Business Meals (1)
Good for a Date (1)
Family Style (1)
Comfort Food (1)
Sunday Lunch (1)
Quick Bite (1)
Worth the Drive (1)
Vegan (1)
Fun (1)
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287 reviews
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this was another great dining experience ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on September 17, 2016

this was another great dining experience at Circa 81. We choose this restaurant for our 12th anniversary dinner. We requested a booth that we really like and we were accommodated. The waitress provided good service along with other waitstaff. The food was very good with a great presentation.

Tags: Vegan, Sunday Lunch, Casual, Local Ingredients, Fit for Foodies
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food5
ambience4
service5
value4

Service was slow and food was served ran ...

 
 (Charlotte)
·Dined on September 16, 2016

Service was slow and food was served randomly in no particular order. Caprese salad was good and cold. She Crab soup lacked crab and was too creamy. If there were any chopped walnuts in the savory baked Brie, they were hiding.

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food3
ambience2
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Food was great. Took a but longer than e ...

vip
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on September 15, 2016

Food was great. Took a but longer than expected to get the second round of tapas since we ordered them all together but the food more than made up for the wait. Watermelon mojito was very good and the sangria was good as well. We'll be back for sure.

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food5
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Four of us had dinner had dinner there o ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on September 10, 2016

Four of us had dinner had dinner there on a recent Saturday Night. It was wonderful, the specials, Tapas, the complete menu. Two of us were retired from the Hospitality Industry, one a CIA Trained Chef, and me, Hotelier. Clarke, the owner, shows creativity, style and substance in his craft. We enjoy Circa-81

Tags: Tapas, Great for Brunch, Casual, Worth the Drive
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food5
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Our food as usual was excellent. Our ser ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on September 5, 2016

Our food as usual was excellent. Our server seemed to be having problems. One of our dishes was delivered by a different server as we were finishing our meal. Also, a second glass of wine came 10-15 minutes after ordering and was delivered by yet another server. Someone else refilled water glasses. Original server brought the bills and 2 of them were wrong. As good as the food was, it was a shame that service was so poor. Have been before and had perfect service so hopefully this was a one time occurrence.

Tags: Tapas
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food5
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service1
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Overall, we really like Circa 81.....one ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on September 3, 2016

Overall, we really like Circa 81.....one of our top three favorite restaurants in the area. However, our last visit, we felt really rushed.....wait staff may want to slow down a bit. We are aware of the importance of table turnover, but when my husband was not quite finished with one of his dishes, someone came by and whisked the plate away (in a hurry, without asking)....he had turned to talk to our friend, with his fork in the air, and looked down and the plate was gone. Staff was accommodating about replacing it. Just remember to please ask if someone is finished with their plate before taking it away. We realize it was a holiday weekend, and the place was packed, but......

We love this place.....this was a rare experience for us, but not a big deal....just annoying. We will continue to enjoy Circa 81. Servers continue to be excellent, as is the food. And, we love the ambiance.

Tags: Family Style, Notable Wine List, Great Beer, Good for Birthdays, Comfort Food, Local Ingredients
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food5
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My husband and I had a wonderful meal. ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on August 27, 2016

My husband and I had a wonderful meal. The food was inventive and really tasty. The menu has something for everyone and you will not be disappointed.

Tags: Quiet Conversation, Bar Seating, Fun, Handcrafted Cocktails, Special Occasion, Vibrant Bar Scene, Business Meals, Fit for Foodies, Good for Anniversaries, Good for Birthdays, Good for a Date, Tapas, Romantic, Good Vegetarian Options, Cozy, Tasting Menu, Creative Cuisine, Neighborhood Gem
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food5
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We love Circa 81, and even went 2 night ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on August 27, 2016

We love Circa 81, and even went 2 nights in a row on our recent beach trip! The food is great, the cocktails are excellent and the staff is very friendly :-)

Tags: Creative Cuisine, Casual, Good Vegetarian Options, Bar Seating, Tapas, Good for Birthdays
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food4
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My wife and I took a break from our sons ...

 
 (Western NC)
·Dined on August 26, 2016

My wife and I took a break from our sons and grandchildren while vacationing at the Beach. We searched online for a restaurant that served local seafood as well as other entrees. Circa 81 also served tapas items which we both enjoy. I had the shrimp and grits and a crab cake from the tapas menu along with a house salad. The shrimp were local and fresh, served with a couple of grit cakes and a light creamy sauce. Most importantly the shrimp were not over cooked. The crab cake seemed more like a deviled crab filling than a flakey Maryland style crab cake that I prefer. Not bad but not my favorite. We shared an excellent vacant wrapped cheese filled date appetizer. My wife ordered the special of the evening (lamb chops and scallops) and it was great. Well prepared and beautifully presented on a rectangular piece of slate. The service was excellent with just the correct amount of attention.

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food4
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Haven't been to Circa in a while but wan ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on August 20, 2016

Haven't been to Circa in a while but wanted to celebrate a Birthday with some great food. Definitely met expectations. Menu had changed some since our last visit. Calamari was gone, but garlic shrimp was added. Good call; best garlic shrimp we've had since Spain, 20+ years ago! Desert (Blueberry yum-yum) was delicious. Only drawback was a limited salad selection; could have used a simple side salad, since the other selections were just too large for our tastes. Otherwise, great visit.

Tags: Good for Anniversaries, Great for Lunch, Great Beer, Good for Birthdays
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food5
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It's difficult to find restaurants that ...

 
 (New York Area)
·Dined on August 18, 2016

It's difficult to find restaurants that have vegetarian options when visiting my family in NC. Thank goodness for Circa 81! I must be the lone vegetarian in North Carolina when I visit. So many options for me! Even my dad, a meat and potatoes kind of guy, enjoyed his meal. And he is very difficult to please.

At the table, collectively, we had: Caprese salad, She-Crab soup, Crab dip, Brussels sprouts, Truffle mac and cheese, potstickers and the kids pizza. Everyone enjoyed everything.

Service was very pleasant. Atmosphere, lovely. What a find! I felt like I was back in NYC.

Tags: Vibrant Bar Scene, Kid-friendly, Fit for Foodies, Neighborhood Gem
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food5
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Great food and lovely staff. A very enjo ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on August 10, 2016

Great food and lovely staff. A very enjoyable evening.

Tags: Fit for Foodies, Romantic, Special Occasion
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food5
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Disappointed that seafood mac & cheese i ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on August 7, 2016

Disappointed that seafood mac & cheese is no longer on menu which is the main reason we went for my birthday.

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food3
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Great tapas and drinks. Well priced fabu ...

 
 (New York Area)
·Dined on August 6, 2016

Great tapas and drinks. Well priced fabulous staff. Excellent presentation and generous amounts on small plates.

Tags: Neighborhood Gem, Fit for Foodies, Special Occasion, Good for Groups
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food5
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This was a nice meal and different than ...

 
 (Atlanta)
·Dined on July 25, 2016

This was a nice meal and different than what we had at other local restaurants while on vacation on the coast of NC, a good change of pace.

I had the beef and my husband had tuna nachos, both were quite good. We also had the bread which was not as good as I hoped it would be. The cocktails were very good, no light pour at this restaurant!

I would recommend Circa 81 as a good change of pace to others visiting the area on vacation, to escape the hustle and bustle of the more touristy areas.

Tags: Good for Groups, Special Occasion, Neighborhood Gem
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food4
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Service was slow. Dishes did not come ou ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on July 24, 2016

Service was slow. Dishes did not come out together.

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food2
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This was not our first time at Circa81; ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on July 23, 2016

This was not our first time at Circa81; we reserve dining there for special occasions because the food experience is so unique. We always order the "small plates" or tapas so we can taste the many skills of the chef. Last night the two shrimp dishes we ordered were particularly good: flavorful and seasoned beautifully. I don't know why we keep ordering the dates....perhaps because they sound so exotic--but we always say afterwards that they were too sweet, like caramel candy. The potatoes Brava were excellent, and the mac and cheese was unique and tasty. The chef's take on Shrimp 'n grits was really good.

It's an expensive evening if your can't control your desire to taste a lot of different dishes...the plus side: there's enough food to share among 4 people. We love eating there!!

Tags: Fit for Foodies, Special Occasion
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food5
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The best meal I've all year. Service wa ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on July 21, 2016

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

Tags: Fit for Foodies, Good for Groups, Neighborhood Gem, Romantic, Special Occasion
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food5
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Two meat dishes were on point. Duck and ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on July 21, 2016

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

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food2
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This was our second visit. My husband an ...

 
 (Raleigh)
·Dined on July 20, 2016

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: Fit for Foodies, Good for Groups, Great for Brunch, Neighborhood Gem, Notable Wine List, Romantic, Special Occasion
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food5
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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
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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, Hot Spot, Late-night Find, Neighborhood Gem
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food5
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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
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Impeccable service and food as always! C ...

 
 (Wilmington)
·Dined on July 3, 2016

Impeccable service and food as always! Can't wait to dine again!

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food5
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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
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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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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: Fit for Foodies, Great for Brunch, Great for Lunch, Kid-friendly
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food5
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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: Fit for Foodies, Great for Brunch, Notable Wine List, Romantic, Special Occasion
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food5
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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, Neighborhood Gem, Notable Wine List, Romantic, Special Occasion
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food5
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service5
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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: Fit for Foodies, Good for Groups, Great for Brunch, Great for Lunch, Notable Wine List, Romantic, Special Occasion
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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, Great for Lunch, Neighborhood Gem, Romantic, Special Occasion
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food5
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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
ambience2
service1
value4

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, Notable Wine List, Romantic, Special Occasion
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food5
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Very friendly staff.

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

Very friendly staff.

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food4
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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, Great for Lunch, Neighborhood Gem, Notable Wine List, Romantic, Scenic View
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