Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Reviews Coming Soon

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria

  • Dining Style: Casual Elegant
  • Website: http://www.circa-81.com/
  • Phone: (252) 648-8300
  • Hours of Operation:
    Lunch: Monday - Sunday: 11:30am - 5:00pm; Dinner: Sunday - Thursday: 5:00pm - 9:00pm, Friday - Saturday: 5:00pm - 9:30pm; Brunch: Sunday: 10:30am - 5:00pm
  • Payment Options: AMEX,MasterCard,Visa
  • Cuisine: Seafood, Tapas / Small Plates
  • Executive Chef: Clarke Merrell
  • Dress Code: Casual Dress
  • Accepts Walk-Ins: Yes
  • Additional Details: Bar Dining, Beer, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Gluten-free Menu, Non-Smoking Area, Non-Smoking Restaurant, Patio/Outdoor Dining, Personal wines welcome (corkage fee applies), Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access, Wine, Wine Bar
  • 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!
  • Special Events: 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.

Getting there

  • Cross Street: Across from EJW Outdoors
  • Public Transit: Taxi Cabs (sorry MHC does not offer public transportation) We are located 2.5 miles west of the Atlantic Beach bridge.
  • Parking: Private Lot
  • Parking Details: Big private lot. Will accommodate large vehicles
A word from 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.
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Foodspotting photos
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Awards voted by OpenTable diners
  • Diners' Choice WinnerBest Overall
  • Diners' Choice WinnerBest Food
  • Diners' Choice WinnerFit for Foodies
Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria reviews from OpenTable diners
  • First Visit To Circa.... Nice
    GregVIP
    Dined on 10/25/2014
    Our first visit to Circa and we enjoyed. We went early in the evening so it was kind of quiet but a cute atmosphere, nice bar area overall a nice space. We shared 4 small plates, seafood mac and cheese, very good, duck breast very good, two tacos (one shrimp and one Beef) excellent and our last dish was the Gnocchi also very good. 4 dishes along with a few glasses of wine we had a very nice evening.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Great experience
    oldbeachbumsrock53
    Dined on 10/23/2014
    Went here for first time as a birthday treat. Really enjoyed the cocktails and the tapas. Service was great without being too "pushy"
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, great for lunch, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Awesome food
    Nick
    Dined on 10/19/2014
    Great place to go all around. This is the third time me and my wife have been here and it is always a wonderful experience.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem, notable wine list, romantic
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great Find
    David68VIP
    Dined on 9/25/2014
    We go to the beach regularly and we were looking from somewhere new. The reviews were great so we found ourselves eating Tapas and drinking Martinis. It was $5 martini night. Anyway we had tuna tacos, pork wings, pot stickers, black bean quesadilla and gnocchi. All were wonderful. I had something that was a marguerite martini and for desert I had a chocolatini. Just great. We will definitely be back the next time we're at the beach.
    Special Features:
    hot spot, late-night find, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great Food As Always !
    foodie
    Dined on 9/23/2014
    Can't say much more about this restaurant - one of the best in the area.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, great for brunch, romantic, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Consistent
    FussyEater
    Dined on 9/21/2014
    We have eaten here at least 5 times this year. It has always been good. It has a creative menu of small and large plates and is a welcome change from the typical fried fish or steak place in this area.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Awesome Bar and Food
    Trav
    Dined on 9/18/2014
    We went on $5 martini night. Top shelf drinks with great flavor. Delicious tapas. I had the shrimp and grits and pot stickers. Good compliment for the drinks.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for brunch, great for lunch, hot spot, late-night find, neighborhood gem, notable wine list, romantic, special occasion, vibrant bar scene
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Favorite restaurant
    Lish1078
    Dined on 9/13/2014
    This was our second visit to Circa 81. It was even better than the first time. We love the food, atmosphere, wonderful service, as well as unique drinks. I can't wait to go back!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, hot spot, neighborhood gem, romantic, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Top Tapas
    Betsy
    Dined on 8/31/2014
    What a great place! Second time and enjoyed it as much as the first!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, hot spot, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Back to perfect!
    Lovegoodeats
    Dined on 8/17/2014
    This weekend Circa 81 returned to its usual outstanding rep and performance:great drinks,service and out of this world benedict florentine with the best grits I've ever had! We will be sure to return several times on our vacation to Emerald Isle next year.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • bullymeals
    Dined on 8/12/2014
    Our dinner party of 4 had glass of pinot grigio, beer and a Brazilian cocktail (voted delicious.) She crab soup got 5 stars, pot stickers were also excellent. Crab cakes were a bit disappointing but not bad -- a bit too much filler. Seared tuna salad was excellent. Calamari okay, a bit too done. Service was a little slow but not terrible. We would all go back -- might try the Sunday brunch. Prices were in line with food quality and we would definitely recommend for those wanting something different from fried seafood, steak etc etc. All in all a very nice outing!
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, great for lunch
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • amazing food. bold flavors.
    ccinraleigh
    Dined on 8/11/2014
    We had an amazing birthday dinner at Circa. We ordered a wide variety of tapas and some large plates. We also tried 3 different special cocktails. The tapas were diverse and yet all consistently good to great. We particularly enjoyed the seafood Mac n cheese (big generous chunks of seafood), the duck breast (we've had a lot of duck at fancy places throughout the country and this was some of the most perefectly cooked), bacon wrapped dates (delightful bites of big flavor), Asian tacos (pork belly in steamed buns a la momofuku), and the pork ramen (amazing broth...I am a ramen nut and this was really good). If Circa was in Raleigh it would be our favorite restaurant. Go try it!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great brunch
    Lovegoodeats
    Dined on 8/10/2014
    Great brunch with only fair to good service on a busy Sunday asking repeatedly for condiments,straws,etc but she was trying I must say.Two of four egg orders were overlooked and two were perfect as if some were left under the hot lamp too long. Drinks also took a long time. Two parties coming in after ours were done before we were even served our main course.Despite all this we will be back because our past experiences here have been FANTASTIC and perhaps they were short staffed this day.One bad at bat doesn't make a career!
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelCannot Recall
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • one of the best
    ScottieVIP
    Dined on 8/7/2014
    Nestled in a rather nondescript cul-de-sac, Circa 81 is a real 'find' in an area top heavy with fast food joints. The menu is outstanding (small plates - tapas - to full entrees to suit every palate and appetite), excellent cocktails (the Circa 81 martini is a must), a good range of reasonably priced wines and beer. Wait staff are knowledgeable and friendly and the service is fast. About $30 a head for dinner with a drink and dessert (splendid choices). Make a point of visiting this culinary gem at the beach.
    Special Features:
    kid-friendly, fit for foodies, good for groups, special occasion, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Tapas, tapas, tapas...
    Alex
    Dined on 8/7/2014
    Excellent food, friendly service. Duck tapas is out of this workd!
    Special Features:
    good for groups, hot spot, kid-friendly, neighborhood gem, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Great local spot
    Onvaca2014
    Dined on 8/6/2014
    Great local spot that offers tapas. We were able to try many different items and enjoyed every item we had. I suggest this place to anyone visiting Atlantic beach area!!
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great Value for Foodies
    JKfun
    Dined on 8/3/2014
    Couldn't wait to try the small plates as described in Circa 81's on-line menu! My husband had the she crab soup which was one of the best he ever had. Our terrific waitress steered our choices which was very much appreciated since all the menu choices sounded so appealing. The shrimp and grits were spicy fantastic and the calamari was crunchy good! This is a great place for anyone who enjoys trying different foods; the prices are fair, drinks terrific; and the waitresses so helpful.
    Special Features:
    kid-friendly, fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great tapos place
    Alex
    Dined on 8/3/2014
    A must visit tapos place in Morehead City, NC. The food, service, atmospher are exceptional.
    Special Features:
    kid-friendly, good for groups, romantic, neighborhood gem, hot spot
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Great place for a date
    Jiggajosh
    Dined on 8/1/2014
    Dimly lit, quiet, nice selection of wine and drinks. Candles on the table, very nice.
    Special Features:
    romantic, notable wine list
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • great tapa. plain and simple.
    RCPatel
    Dined on 7/31/2014
    On our first visit, we tried more than half of the tapas menu. It was amazing. Food came out piping hot and seasoned beautifully (which as a chef, I value dearly.) I highly recommend the shrimp and grits (shrimp were supple, grit cakes- flawless, sauce- truly complex and divine. The dates with chevre (crisp Smokey bacon, dates and goat cheese is a impactful salty sweet tapa. Crab cakes- light and flavorful. As far as coctails- do not miss the caipirinha, a classic from Brazil.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Super Find
    Rowayton06853
    Dined on 7/26/2014
    Not wanting Fried Fish or Hush Puppies, I kept looking at Trip Advisor and found Circa 81. So glad I did, 4 of us went, had a great selection of Tapas. Everything was presented beautifully and tasted great. So glad I found some good food by the beach. Will return soon, thanks
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Another Wonderful Meal
    OpenTable Diner Since 2007
    Dined on 7/21/2014
    Clark, you did it again! We came with another couple and their 8-year-old. We love the tapas menu and they did too. A salad (love the house with apples and blue cheese) and two tapas each was plenty for moderate appetites. My fav is the pork wings. The Thai chili sauce is terrific, just the right amount of sweet and spicy. Each of us was beyond happy with the food. Only slight downside was the service. We have always had above average service here, but this night was an exception. Drinks took a long time to arrive, despite our table location right next to the bar, some dishes came quickly some took a long time. I think the waitress was new; but overall we had a good time and really enjoyed the meal.
    Special Features:
    kid-friendly, fit for foodies, good for groups, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem, vibrant bar scene
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Outstanding Sunday Brunch
    SuzP
    Dined on 7/20/2014
    Last Sunday we enjoyed a leisurely Sunday brunch, and even though we both knew exactly what we wanted (one Cuban Benedict, one Circa 81 Benedict), we both changed our minds when we heard the specials! Clarke often offers unusual specials, and my husband chose a pulled pork/bacon/feta omelet special, and I chose the teriyaki pork Benedict, and both were outstanding. Lots of flavor! Clarke uses fresh ingredients and unusual combinations, and we've never been disappointed. We do not live in this area, but every time we head for the coast, we make a point of planning a dinner of tapas and a Sunday brunch---both at Circa 81.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Excellent gluten-free options
    glutenfreediner
    Dined on 7/13/2014
    We have had dinner there every year for the last 3 years when we visit the beach, and every time they have taken very good care of me. The waitstaff is very knowledgeable about gluten-free options and they are able to substitute gluten-free bread and even gluten-free tortillas. And the food is very good. This time we had the mussels in a cilantro & lime broth, and they were amazing. I also highly recommend the bacon-wrapped dates.
    Special Features:
    kid-friendly, fit for foodies, romantic
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • Will definitely go back!
    Lish1078
    Dined on 7/12/2014
    There's nothing like it in the area. The food was delicious. The service was great, overall a spectacular find. Looking forward to our next dinner.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem, hot spot, notable wine list
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Good food and good service
    Chase
    Dined on 7/11/2014
    We went for my wifes birthday and had a great time. We shared several small plates and had a couple different martinis, all of which were great. I was a little disappointed they were out of the Ibiza Spanish ham but other than that - no complaints. We will definitely return and often.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Tasting Adventure
    emtpcoble
    Dined on 7/11/2014
    Tapas are the highlight of the restaurant. The tapas have been Americanized and they are larger than normal. Wide variety to pick from. We tried six different selections from sweet to savory. The pork osso boco and the beef skewer were our favorite. Large beer and wine selection. We had the chocolate creme brulee for dessert which tasted really good but the texture could have been firmer and the hardened carmalized top more pronounced.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, special occasion, neighborhood gem, notable wine list
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Fun and relaxed
    Newpersons
    Dined on 7/10/2014
    We went on a weekday evening, with another couple. The service was attentive but not stiff, and the food was very good, love the variety in the menu. Comfortable seating, upbeat ambiance and an overall excellent experience.
    Special Features:
    great for brunch, fit for foodies, good for groups, romantic, neighborhood gem, hot spot, vibrant bar scene
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Erratic
    FussyEater
    Dined on 7/6/2014
    We've eaten three times in three weeks at Circa 81. The first two times it was great! Shrimp and grits, Mahi bites, duck breast, pot stickers, mussels all were excellent. This week (after the July 4 weekend which may affect things), I ordered two specials: 1. "pork wings" : they were tough, overcooked, tasted stale, but the sauce was tasty; and 2. "seafood nachos" : they were not good at all: first served they were cold, after re-heating the seafood was tough and tasteless, the nachos themselves were not as good as those you get at a stadium. I still think this is the most interesting restaurant in Morehead City but they have to work to keep the quality up. This week they didn't. Just my opinion.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great small plates
    RVAfoodie
    Dined on 7/1/2014
    Fun night out celebrating our daughter's 25th birthday. Great Cosmo and wine and the small plate selection is great. We ordered way too much food cause it all sounded so good! Will definitely go back!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Great Find!
    OpenTable Diner Since 2014
    Dined on 6/28/2014
    I found Circa 81 online while looking for a special place for a nice dinner for my first weekend get-away with my boyfriend. I wasnt sure what to expect I just knew the few reviews I read had been positive. We were both blown away by our experience. The atmosphere was comfortable and intimate. The service was great. Drinks from the bar were of high quality. The food was absolutely amazing! By far of one of the best meals Ive ever had in a resturant. Our expectations were well exceeded. I have already recommended Circa 81 to my friends. We cant wait to go back!
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • 5 Star, as usual
    SurpriseVIP
    Dined on 6/21/2014
    OMG. Great small plate selection. The worst thing I had I'd order it again tomorrow. More cured meats is the way to go. Chef and Wife need to take along vacay to Spain and Italy is search of more cured meats. Two things, though. You can't go until the winter and yous guys have to pay for the trip. Have fun and I'll see next week.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, good for groups, special occasion, neighborhood gem, hot spot, vibrant bar scene
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • Great place great food
    Adloir61501
    Dined on 6/21/2014
    Love the topas great service, we were there for anniversary and they were very attentive.
    Special Features:
    notable wine list
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • ADVENTURE IN EATING
    scamper
    Dined on 6/21/2014
    We went for the Tapas experience; I'd had them in Spain and really, really wanted to have tapas again. We had a super knowledgable waitress (Janet) who guided us thru the mysteries of the "small plates". the food was superb! Each tapas we tasted immediately became "oh, this is my favorite"..the beer selection was great: I tried a Gaelic Ale that went with the black bean tapas perfectly. A suggestion: have the Madjool Date tapas for dessert...too sweet to have early in the tasting. GO...you'll love it. (not much atmosphere but a great chef with innovative ideas)
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, great for lunch
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Anniversary dinner
    NCJayhawlk
    Dined on 6/16/2014
    The reservation and table selection was perfect. The food was exquisite. We done from the Tapas selections and all were delicious. The service was the best we have found in the area. We will be back here on our next trip to the Bogue Banks.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
    I would recommend this to a friend.
  • Relaxing place to dine!
    Patti
    Dined on 6/16/2014
    I really enjoyed eating at Circa 81. The food was perfectly delivered popping hot. You can tell it was prepared for you and not made ahead of time. The waitress, knew the menu and answered all questions. The menu had many choices . If you enjoy beers, they have a wonderful choice. I have been back many times, for lunch and dinner.
    Special Features:
    romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem, hot spot
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Great place to unwind and eat!
    Patti
    Dined on 6/7/2014
    A perfect place to have any meal. The chef and owner is the friendliest person. You feel at home when dinning there. The food has been beyond any restaurant in the area. I enjoy dining every time.
    Special Features:
    romantic, special occasion, great for lunch, neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelEnergetic
  • Seniorfoodie
    Dined on 6/1/2014
    I'm surprised that Open Table makes reservations for Circa 81. It certainly doesn't compare with the other places I've made Open Table reservation at. The restaurant is just what it looks like from the outside: a third-rate strip-mall eatery with slouchy waitstaff and mediocre food. I was fooled by its website and Open Table connection.
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet
  • Perfect Romantic Dinner & Drinks
    Moche
    Dined on 5/31/2014
    We were staying at Atlantic Beach for a weekend anniversary vacation. Circa 81, just minutes away in Morehead City, is the ideal place for a foodie-approved dinner of European-influenced dishes, fused with local seafood and fresh ingredients. The tapas are a fun option for trying multiple items. The cocktail list is solid, they are willing to make modifications, and the drinks are quality.
    Special Features:
    fit for foodies, romantic, special occasion, vibrant bar scene
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelModerate
  • A gem for locals and holiday makers
    wineandineVIP
    Dined on 5/26/2014
    Warm welcome and friendly efficient service even though we had been delayed and arrived late. (We did call to let them know.) Seared tuna and mahi mahi were very good; some interesting flavors. Creme brulee was deliciously fresh and creamy, definitely a cut above the usual. Wine list is very affordable. It was an enjoyable evening worth repeating.
    Special Features:
    neighborhood gem
    • Food
    • Ambiance
    • Service
    • Noise LevelQuiet