About Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
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.
Tapas / Small Plates, Seafood
Hours of Operation:
Monday: 11:30am - 9:00pm
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
Across from EJW Outdoors
$30 and under
AMEX, MasterCard, Visa
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!
Big private lot. Will accommodate large vehicles
Taxi Cabs (sorry MHC does not offer public transportation)
We are located 2.5 miles west of the Atlantic Beach bridge.
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.
Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria Ratings and Reviews
Haven't been to Circa in a while but wan ...
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.
It's difficult to find restaurants that ...
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.
This was a nice meal and different than ...
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.
This was not our first time at Circa81; ...
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!!
This was our second visit. My husband an ...
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!
Great evening at this fun restaurant. We ...
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.
Very disappointed; won't be back. There ...
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.
On vacation for the Fourth. Ate out four ...
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.
I took my husband for Father's Day brunc ...
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!
dinner with husband
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.
We are consistently disappointed
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.
Very nice place! Worth the 20 minute or ...
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!
perfect, perfect, perfect
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!
The food is always good. Great cheese ...
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.
One of Our Favorites
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.
Great food..less than great service
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.
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.
Dang, what a find!
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.
East Coast Dining Delight!!
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.
Excellent overall! Food was great! Service slow.
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.
Black Bean Chorizo Soup
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.
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