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, 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.
Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria Ratings and Reviews
The tapas are American size - delicious ...
The tapas are American size - delicious and large!
We started with deconstructed shrimp & grits, hot crab dip & pita and bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese. Each and every one a flavorful mouth explosion!
Adding a salad would have made a perfect meal but no, we ordered the evening special of an encrusted pork chop served with sweet potato purée, purple cauliflower & broccolini. Sensory overload ensued - not to mention the loosening of a belt notch!
Can. Not. Wait. To. Go. Back!
So many more things to try!
Our server made the evening a gastronomic fun evening.!
this was another great dining experience ...
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.
Service was slow and food was served ran ...
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.
Food was great. Took a but longer than e ...
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.
Four of us had dinner had dinner there o ...
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
Our food as usual was excellent. Our ser ...
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.
Overall, we really like Circa 81.....one ...
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.
My wife and I took a break from our sons ...
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.
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.
Please sign in to record your input. Thanks!
Report this review as inappropriate?
If you believe this review should be removed from OpenTable, please let us know and someone will investigate.