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.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria Ratings and Reviews

5
4
3
2
1

4.7

Overall Rating

based on recent ratings
food

4.8

service

4.7

ambience

4.5

value

4.6

noise

Moderate

100% would recommend it to a friend

Tapas (12)
Good for a Date (12)
Creative Cuisine (10)
See All
Special Occasion (9)
Neighborhood Gem (7)
Casual (6)
Great for Brunch (6)
Romantic (6)
Sunday Lunch (6)
Handcrafted Cocktails (6)
Tasting Menu (5)
Notable Wine List (5)
Bar Seating (5)
Business Meals (5)
Worth the Drive (5)
Good for Anniversaries (5)
Fit for Foodies (5)
Gluten Free Options (4)
Good for Birthdays (3)
Authentic (3)
Comfort Food (3)
Local Ingredients (3)
Quiet Conversation (3)
Modern Decor (3)
Healthy (3)
Outstanding Value (3)
People Watching (2)
Great for Lunch (2)
Fun (2)
Happy Hour (2)
Good Vegetarian Options (2)
Cozy (2)
Good for Groups (2)
Disabled Access (2)
Seasonal (2)
Kid-friendly (2)
Great for Outdoor Dining (1)
Great Beer (1)
Afternoon Tea (1)
Pre/post Theatre (1)
Vibrant Bar Scene (1)
Hot Spot (1)
Organic (1)
Dining Occasion:
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324 reviews
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vip
 (Raleigh)·Dined 7 days ago

Sunday late lunch- friendly staff, food quality was excellent, drinks were great, would recommend and return, the only drawback for us is the distance

next time in Morehead City we will stop in again!

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food5
ambience4
service5
value4

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined 7 days ago

I went in for the first time because I've been buying olive oil from the owner at his Swansboro location. The prices of the food are great along with the presentation. My husband and I both ordered a version of their eggs Benedict and both agreed that the hollandaise sauce was bland. There wasn't really any flavor to it. I also would have like if my eggs had yolk (I thought eggs benedict always came with yolk but maybe that isn't always the case?). Overall, I would give it another try but order something else on the menu.

Tags: Good for Birthdays, Sunday Lunch, Business Meals, Kid-friendly, Good for a Date, Neighborhood Gem
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food3
ambience4
service3
value5

 
 (Raleigh)·Dined on February 17, 2017

Great collection of tapas dishes to share including a few specials. Plate sizes were good for tapas.

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food5
ambience4
service4
value5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on February 17, 2017

We have had the Circa 81 experience several months ago with a friends outing and had a wonderful time and haven't stopped talking about it. This time it was our priviledge to take a friend out for Circa 81. Wonderful evening!

Tags: Good for Anniversaries, Quiet Conversation, Tasting Menu, Tapas, Good for a Date, Worth the Drive, Good Vegetarian Options
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food5
ambience4
service5
value4

 
 (Raleigh)·Dined on February 15, 2017

We went to Circa for a business/birthday lunch. There were 5 of us and the service and our meals were top shelf!

Tags: Tasting Menu, Casual, Local Ingredients, Great for Brunch, Authentic, Special Occasion, Outstanding Value, Great for Lunch, Good for Birthdays, Creative Cuisine, Modern Decor, Business Meals, Good for a Date, Handcrafted Cocktails, Happy Hour, Tapas
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

vip
 (Raleigh)·Dined on February 14, 2017

The owners have figured out the perfect formula... great food, nice ambiance, well-trained and friendly staff. Thank you for an AWESOME prix fine meal. The cold poached lobster was FABULOUS, the duck crispy and perfectly prepared, and the gateau was melt-in-your mouth good.

Tags: Seasonal, Special Occasion, People Watching, Romantic, Great for Lunch, Great for Brunch, Vibrant Bar Scene, Good for a Date, Sunday Lunch, Hot Spot, Neighborhood Gem, Notable Wine List, Good for Birthdays, Tapas, Comfort Food, Worth the Drive, Healthy, Disabled Access, Casual, Fun, Kid-friendly, Good for Anniversaries, Creative Cuisine, Business Meals
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Las Vegas)·Dined on February 11, 2017

Great date night with my husband and my son! Love Circa! The staff is so sweet and food is always amazing!!

Tags: Local Ingredients
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on February 11, 2017

I've been a patron many times before and took a date there for her first visit. She absolutely loved it... she even had grits for the first time and enjoyed them. The truffle mac and cheese is a must have. Service is always great, too.

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food5
ambience5
service5

 
 (Charleston)·Dined on February 2, 2017

Circa 81 is one of our go to restaurants for date night. The food is always amazing, the staff is always friendly, and it is always a pleasant dining experience.

Tags: Tapas
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on February 1, 2017

Dined on $5 wine night. House wine very good! Tapas specials creative and very tasty. Will dine there again.

Tags: Worth the Drive, Special Occasion, Tapas, Good for a Date, Creative Cuisine
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Western NC)·Dined on January 28, 2017

Mixed grill was excellent

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food4
ambience3
service4

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on January 20, 2017

Very good food in reasonable quantities. Nice selection and very good service.

Tags: Modern Decor, Creative Cuisine, Tapas, Authentic, Good Vegetarian Options, Worth the Drive, Casual
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on January 18, 2017

Really nice wine for $5

Specials - shrimp grits and lamb chops best we have had for quite awhile

Tags: Fit for Foodies, Creative Cuisine
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food5
ambience4
service4
value5

 
 (Raleigh)·Dined on January 1, 2017

We are so happy we stumbled across this local gem. I love TAPAS and these guys hit the nail on the head. The wide array of tapas offered were unique and flavorful. I also had an amazing Pomegranate Mojito.

Tags: Special Occasion, Neighborhood Gem, Good for a Date, Tasting Menu
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food5
ambience4
service4
value5

 
 (Charleston)·Dined on December 31, 2016

We actually tried most everything on the menu with our party of 6! I have dined at many restaurants across the country....this is my favorite!!! Try the pork belly, truffle Mac and cheese and the SEARED TUNA EVEN IF U DON'T like it normally!!! Amazing place

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food5
ambience5
service5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on December 29, 2016

Service and food was excellent. Very much enjoyed the entire evening!

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food5
ambience5
service5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on December 24, 2016

The greeting from the hostess. The great service and the delicious food. Brussels sprouts and garlic shrimp were our favorite dishes tonight.

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food5
ambience4
service5

 
 (Raleigh)·Dined on December 21, 2016

Have eaten here repeatedly over the last several years. Our family and friends enjoy it as well. Service is always excellent, food well prepared and reservations in a beach community a real plus. We always order tapas and have rarely been disappointed. Nice variety with something for everyone and easily shared portions. Not inexpensive but a special night out.

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food5
ambience4
service5
value4

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on December 9, 2016

High expectations on quality food, somewhat disappointing. Not a good value, considering it was a $100 lunch for two. Service was very good.

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food2
ambience3
service4
value2

 
 (Minneapolis)·Dined on November 27, 2016

Wonderful food, quick service, attentive waitress and omg the best brunch I've had in months!!!!!

Tags: Fit for Foodies, Good for Anniversaries, Comfort Food, Afternoon Tea, Quiet Conversation, Bar Seating
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on November 19, 2016

We frequent this restaurant and have always had amazing service and the food is top notch. During this visit our service was more than lacking. Our drinks weren't refilled regularly and our server was generally inattentive. The food was great as usual! Love this restaurant and I hope the poor service we had this time doesn't become a pattern.

Tags: Good for Anniversaries, Romantic, Bar Seating, People Watching, Good for a Date, Gluten Free Options, Authentic, Tapas, Cozy, Notable Wine List
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food5
ambience5
service2
value4

 
 (Miami)·Dined on November 19, 2016

Perfect place to celebrate any occasion or just casual dinner!

Tags: Tasting Menu, Neighborhood Gem, Creative Cuisine, Romantic
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Wilmington)·Dined on November 5, 2016

One of my MOST favorite spots on earth! They accommodate us every time we come to eat - My husband has severe allergies and they are amazing about it... It is our safe spot!

Tags: Handcrafted Cocktails, Healthy, Sunday Lunch, Gluten Free Options, Good for Groups, Romantic, Notable Wine List, Organic, Disabled Access, Pre/post Theatre
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Richmond)·Dined on October 19, 2016

Unique selections.

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food4
ambience4
service5

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on October 9, 2016

Always excellent and fun! Many many visits since the restaurant opened!

Tags: Bar Seating, Casual, Creative Cuisine, Great for Brunch, Authentic, Neighborhood Gem, Comfort Food
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Raleigh)·Dined on October 1, 2016

Delicious small plates, easy to share. Laid back atmosphere. TVs at bar w sports on.

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food5
ambience4
service4

 
 (New York Area)·Dined on September 30, 2016

This is a favorite of ours. We are seasonal visitors to Morehead but have family in the area. On our previous visit, a year ago, we brought 25 people for a celebration and Circa 81 handled it beautifully.

Last week we returned. I had she crab soup-excellent, octopus-ok I guess, duck breast-best I've had outside Paris, charred pork belly-delicious! Chocolate cheesecake-very good. All hot dishes were served HOT, which I like. Service was careful and courteous. The house Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon were fine and the pour was generous.

It's a good place.

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food4
ambience4
service4
value4

 
 (Louisville)·Dined on September 26, 2016

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.!

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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (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

 
 (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
service2

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
ambience4
service4
value4

 
 (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
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (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
ambience5
service1
value4

 
 (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
ambience5
service4
value4

 
 (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
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (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
ambience4
service4
value4

 
 (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
ambience4
service5
value5

 
 (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
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (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
ambience4
service5
value4

 
 (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
ambience4
service5
value4

 
 (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
ambience3
service4
value3

 
 (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
ambience5
service5
value5

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on July 31, 2016

Always fun with good food and great service. Nice selection of regular menu items and specials. Good wine list.

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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (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
ambience4
service4
value4

 
 (Raleigh)·Dined on July 24, 2016

Service was slow. Dishes did not come out together.

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food2
ambience2
service2

 
 (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
ambience3
service4
value4

 
 (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
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (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
ambience3
service3
value2

 
 (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
ambience5
service5
value5

 
 (Charleston)·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

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