Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria

4.6
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552 Reviews
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$30 and under
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Tapas / Small Plates
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.
What 552 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.6based on recent ratings
4.6
food
4.6
service
4.4
ambience
4.4
value
Noise · Quiet
100% of people would recommend it to a friend
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AH
1 review
Dined on November 9, 2019
Overall5food5service4ambience5

Took a couple here that had never been and they were quite impressed with the variety and flavors of the various tapas selections. Consistently top notch!

E
Wilmington
1 review
Dined on November 9, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

We have eaten at Circa 81 a number of times and always enjoyed it. We ate there recently with friends that had not eaten there before and they seemed to enjoy it a great deal. As usual the tapas were interesting and well prepared and the staff was knowledgeable and helpful. If the place was a bit noisy it was because everyone was having a good time!

B
Raleigh
79 reviews
Dined on October 31, 2019
Overall3food2service5ambience5

We're long time fans of Circa 81. We've had some wonderful meals there, but this wasn't one of them. Any restaurant can have a bad night, so we won't hold that against them and we will be back. The cocktails were superb and the service excellent. The kitchen just wasn't up to the usual creative excellent quality.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on November 5, 2019

We are so sorry to hear about this recent experience. We would have been more than happy to take any of those items off of your bill if we were aware or get you something else. We would love to be able to get a tapas or drink on us for your next visit. We always strive to provide outstanding food and great service and we are very disappointed to hear we missed the mark on your recent visit. We will share your feedback with our team so we can look at ways to improve. Thank you for sharing.

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OT
Washington DC
3 reviews
Dined on October 31, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

We had been wanting to try Circa 81 for a while so finally went there for lunch. Liked the variety on the menu and saw many things we would have liked to try so will be back again. Our server was very good as was the food. Key lime pie was excellent. Our new go to place.

BG
1 review
Dined on October 18, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience3

Great place to eat. High grade food for better than reasonable prices. Some tables are pretty close to eachother, other than that an amazing place and would highly recommend it.

WR
San Antonio
2 reviews
Dined on October 17, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Awesome place! Food was excellent! Staff was very nice and very attentive to us! Highly recommend!

P
Raleigh
31 reviews
Dined on October 13, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Went for Sunday Brunch and the food was excellent, service was superb. The had a special that one person had, which was breakfast nachos with scrambled eggs, shrimp, black beans and etc. I tasted it and it was out of this world. The shrimp and grits another party had suggested it was awesome. Another Paterson had eggs Benedict and lived it and I had chicken sandwich and broccoli slaw that also was awesome. We all shared peanut butter cheese cake and it was made on site and was fantastic. Again service was awesome and will be back!!

CE
1 review
Dined on October 6, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

Good food, great service! One of my favorite places for brunch!

KD
Charleston
27 reviews
Dined on September 30, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

The waitress was excellent and the food was exceptional. Will go back ASAP

KC
Western NC
5 reviews
Dined on September 20, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Awesome small plates and specials!

OT
New York Area
3 reviews
Dined on September 15, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Circa always delivers. It’s my favorite place on the Crystal coast. I’ve dined here multiple times and have never been let down. The food is top notch and the service is as well. If you’re visiting or live near Circa please do yourself a favor and stop.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on September 20, 2019

Thanks so much!

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OT
Chicago
5 reviews
Dined on September 13, 2019
Overall4food4service4ambience4

Good stuuf, fair price. Will be back!!

w
Greensboro
4 reviews
Dined on September 12, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Our favorite restaurant in the area. We dine here every time we visit the beach. Truly wonderful food and ambiance!

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on September 20, 2019

Thanks so much!

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KH
1 review
Dined on September 1, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

This was our first visit, but it won't be the last. We took guests who are very food aware and they loved it, too.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on September 20, 2019

Thank you so much!

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CB
Raleigh
6 reviews
Dined on September 1, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Awesome food. Great service.

OT
Wilmington
3 reviews
Dined on August 31, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

The perfect mix of different flavors for different tastes.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on September 20, 2019

Thank you!

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JY
Wilmington
12 reviews
Dined on August 9, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

The food choices are broad considering both the small plates, appetizers and entree's. Everything was perfectly prepared and well presented. our server was extremely efficient and knowledgeable. The four of us ordered a wide variety of small plates and I ordered the mixed grill. Perfect! Drinks were good sized and well made. A fun experience!

JA
San Francisco
3 reviews
Dined on August 3, 2019
Overall4food5service3ambience5

We always eat here when we are in the area - it's our favorite! Food is delicious but service always seems to be a bit slow.

OT
New York Area
3 reviews
Dined on July 29, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

Great food, second year in a row visiting and did not disappoint.

OT
1 review
Dined on July 24, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Very enjoyable

OT
Washington DC
2 reviews
Dined on July 22, 2019
Overall4food4service4ambience3

Update to below: Got a call today to follow up on my rating. Very pleasant and they clearly want to create an environment that meets the needs of their customers. In hindsight I should have asked for a different table and moved to a warmer part of the restaurant—I am sure they would have been more than accommodating. Like I said, we have had good experiences in the past, so maybe just an off night combined with my lack of engagement. Our wait staff was always pleasant and overall a very nice locally run business that does a great job day to day and well worth a try for anyone out there.

the Maybe they were off for the night—have gone a for lunch and it seems better. Food quality about the same (solid), but took 45 minutes to tell us they were out of scallops, so needed a new pick. Those things happen, but seems like we could find out faster. Biggest problem was the cold air blowing on us—it was freezing and the wait staff could apparently control the fan, but were not allowed to touch the window unit which was visibly blowing freezing air on the customers near the bar. Also a bit odd to have a 24 hour cancellation policy with a credit card hold. For a place that generally has a wait, I’m not sure why a heads up on the reservation will not do. Too many good choices with a view in Beaufort next door, so doubt we will book through open table again—and not driving to Morehead to wait in line for dinner. Lunch maybe if we are passing by, but this is too hard for the quality and atmosphere.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 24, 2019

Thank you for your time. There was clearly a miscommunication on our part about your order. We agree we could have done a better job communicating that and are so sorry to hear you did not get to enjoy that dish. As for the AC, it is a difficult task to keep a restaurant comfortable for all guests, while the kitchen is over 115' all day and the doors to outside are opening and it is 100' outside. If we change any of the AC it will impact the entire building. We apologize for any discomfort!

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CJ
Baltimore
14 reviews
Dined on July 21, 2019
Overall5food4service4ambience4

Always the best place for brunch! The food is cooked to order with always several yummy specials!

JL
Charlotte
12 reviews
Dined on July 20, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

We were staying about 1 hour away and took a day trip to the area. We had been struggling to find good restaurants and this was one of our best meals! Great food and service!

CH
Cleveland
10 reviews
Dined on July 19, 2019
Overall3food3service1ambience2

Very disappointed in that our waitress was also our bartender. She was friendly enough, but we rarely saw her. I had to ask other waiters/waitresses to check on our food. Waited forever for our check. Most of the tapas were good except for the signature dish which was the duck breast. It was so tough I couldn't eat it.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 24, 2019

Thanks for your feedback on the duck and your experience. We're so sorry to hear that you had to wait. We had a couple folks with family emergencies and hospitalizations which left us a bit short handed and that impacted your visit and the level of service received. We will do our best to improve and hope to be able to serve you again in the future! Thanks for your time!

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OT
1 review
Dined on July 5, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

We love Circa. It's our favorite restaurant! We look forward to going every year when we stay in the area for vacation. We went twice this trip! The good is top notch!

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 9, 2019

Thank you!

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m
Raleigh
1 review
Dined on July 5, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

There’s a great selection of delicious foods. One of our favorite restaurants!!

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 9, 2019

Thanks so much!

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DK
Raleigh
13 reviews
Dined on July 5, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

This is still my favorite restaurant in town. Decor is nice. Seating is comfortable. Despite every table being full, we were still able to carry on a conversation at our table and be heard. I love their drink menu and have had most of their specialty cocktails over the years. Our server, Paul, was attentive and stopped by regularly to check on us. Other staff members were also quite attentive. Even the hostess stopped by to remove plates. The bus person was around regularly to refill water glasses and remove plates. The food is always well prepared with good presentation. We chose the Charcuterie board (half size) to share as we have several times before. It's always a bit different each time which keeps it interesting. My pot stickers were tender and delicious. The pricing is reasonable for the portion size on the Tapas dishes. I have had almost every Tapas on their menu at some point over the years, and have never been unhappy with anything I've chosen. My hubby didn't feel the large bread service was worth the price, however the bread was very good. They have a nice dessert selection, all but one are made in house, and the portion size on the cheesecake was perfect for sharing. Even though the place was full and people who didn't have a reservation were waiting outside for the next available table, we were never made to feel rushed.

I appreciate receiving a coupon via email that we use on our anniversary each year. And I also appreciate how the owner supports our local community thru several of their businesses. Another thing I love is that, unlike many restaurants, they are open on Monday nights (and closed Tuesdays).

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 9, 2019

Thank you so much!

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A
Raleigh
11 reviews
Dined on July 1, 2019
Overall4food5service5ambience4

Food was inventive and very tasty

CY
1 review
Dined on July 1, 2019
Overall5food5service4ambience4

The chef has an exquisite hand with sauces and combinations of flavors. I've eaten here countless times and have never had a poor meal. This food is comparable to the best of New Orleans and New York. In my top five restaurants.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 6, 2019

Wow, thank you for your support and kind feedback!

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S
Chicago
1 review
Dined on June 27, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

We had a wonderful meal. Everything about it was great!

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 6, 2019

thank you!

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E
Wilmington
1 review
Dined on June 22, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

We love Circa 81 -- have gone many times. The menu changes occasionally but they keep many of our "favorites." The asparagus this time was served on a crackling home-made cheese "taco" and poached egg -- unlike last time when it was served with the poached egg and shaved salt-cured egg. Both ways are just delicious! The small plate clams & chorizo were out of this world and we loved the yellow-fin tuna nachos. The black-bean quesadilla and pot-stickers (our regular picks) were perfect as always. The waiter was exceptional -- knows the menu inside and out -- and asked the bartender to make a cocktail for me which was not on the menu. We will go back again and again to this delightful restaurant.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on June 24, 2019

Thank you for the very kind feedback! Hope to see you again soon.

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MF
Louisville
1 review
Dined on June 21, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

This is the second time we've been to Circa 81 and it was every bit as good as the first. Everything was prepared perfectly and tasted great.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on July 6, 2019

Thanks so much!

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A
Charleston
1 review
Dined on June 19, 2019
Overall4food5service4ambience3

Great food, good service.

OT
Charlotte
1 review
Dined on June 17, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

The food was excellent (highly recommend the pork belly, potato brava, and shrimp and grits), and the service (waitress, food runner, and hostess) was great. They're also open on a Monday in a town where several other businesses are not. I'll definitely be back!

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on June 19, 2019

Thank you!

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M
Raleigh
2 reviews
Dined on June 16, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Innovated menu, good food!
Love the atmosphere and the service is the best.

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on June 19, 2019

Thanks so much!

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T
1 review
Dined on June 16, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

We had a delicious and delightful meal of multiple beautifully presented tapas -- each one was excellent! The service was top notch and also very fun!

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on June 19, 2019

Thank you!

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KT
Greensboro
2 reviews
Dined on June 16, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Always great brunch at Circa 81! The food and service is always top notch!

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on June 19, 2019

Thanks so much!

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s
Charleston
3 reviews
Dined on June 13, 2019
Overall3food2service3ambience4

Have concluded that tapas better choice than rntrees

Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria
Responded on June 16, 2019

Good evening, thank you for sharing your feedback. If there are any specific details you can provide we would certainly appreciate it so we can share them with our team to improve. You can contact us via email. We would love to address your concerns directly and are so sorry to hear you were not happy with your experience. We appreciate your time and hope to hear from you.

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MA
1 review
Dined on June 8, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

A must stop every time we come to the area !! Amazing food ,lovely servers, just can’t say enough good things!!

P
Washington DC
9 reviews
Dined on May 31, 2019
Overall5food5service4ambience4

Excellent tapas, friendly service

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