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
Very good food, deserts were GREAT! Big ...
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.
Fantastic food, great service!!! The ne ...
Fantastic food, great service!!! The new chef has made Circa a standout in a sea of mediocre restraunts on the Crystal Coast.
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.
Fantastic array of tapas... Yummy and a ...
Fantastic array of tapas... Yummy and a great selection! Really has variety too.
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.
It was AMAZING!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
Good Food, Poor Service
Our food was very good but the wait staff was more what you would expect in the local diner than an upscale restaurant.
Food was excellent. Our sever disappeared for a little while but the place was pretty busy. Would definitely recommend. We will be back!
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.
Unexpected food with great prices.
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.
The food was amazing. Excellent flavors ...
The food was amazing. Excellent flavors and portions. Also great drink selection.
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.
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.
They do it well...
...that food thing. The chef is innovative, the food is fabulous, the staff are well-trained. Encore!!
Love the tapas concept and absolutely ad ...
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.
short on staff
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.
Another nice visit to a very reliable r ...
Another nice visit to a very reliable restaurant! Excellent!
With such great tapas, who needs the large plates?
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!!!!!
This was our fifth visit to Circa 81 and ...
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
We celebrated a birthday here, and the food made it the perfect choice. Between the four of us, we split 7 tapas items (a little less than the 2-3 items they recommend per person, although we were saving room for dessert). The serving sizes for small plates were pretty generous, in my opinion. We loved the mac and cheese, black bean quesadillas, and potatoes bravas. The gnocchi and potatoes bravas were also pretty good. There was a fairly extensive drinks menu, of which we enjoyed the champagne mojito, sangria, and pineapple cake martini. Finally, dessert was delicious - we highly recommend the key lime pie, vanilla creme brulee, and blueberry yum yum. As we went during the off season, the restaurant wasn't too busy. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the place is packed during peak times, so reservations are a good idea. We had great service, and enjoyed receiving our dishes as they were ready, rather than waiting for a round to be prepared. Sufficient choices for vegetarians.
The service was wonderful and the food w ...
The service was wonderful and the food was perfect.
Good tapas restaurant in Morehead City
We were looking for a light dinner on a Sunday night. Based on the reviews we decided to give them a try. They had a variety of tapa plates on the menu. We ordered hot crab dip which my husband loved. The pork dumplings were more my favorite. I could have easily ordered another it was so good. The pork belly tacos were small but tasty. We also had the duck tapa. I found it to be tender, perfectly cooked but would have liked a sauce with it. Overall a good meal.
Big City Restaurant in a Small Town Community
We love this restaurant. Been there four times now. Each visit is as good as the first. The menu truly offers something for everyone. Wife is a vegetarian but I could get by on the vegetarian offerings as well. She had a cheese and chutney tapa that was fantastic. Also, the black bean quesadilla is packed with flavor. I had pork pot stickers and the shrimp papardelle pasta. Excellent!!! The wine list is fairly priced and wines by the glass are very generous pours.
We took our family of 4 to Circa 81 to celebrate our anniversary. The food was great and the staff was very accommodating in helping us eat "family style". The Washington Apple Martini was excellent! :)
great food and service- cannot wait to come back for dinner-great location-wonderful desserts
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