Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria

4.8
490 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 490 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.8based on recent ratings
4.8
food
4.6
service
4.5
ambience
4.6
value
Noise · Moderate
96% of people would recommend it to a friend
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CM
1 review
Dined 3 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

This has always been a great place to dine. Highly recommended.

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KC
1 review
Dined 3 days ago
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Service and ambiance were excellent! Will definitely be going back for dinner!

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c
Tallahassee
7 reviews
Dined on February 10, 2019
Overall 5food 4service 4ambience 4

Both my husband and I got the Circa 81 Benedict (crab cake w/ home fries) and it was great! We also had a bloody mary and the brunch cocktail and both were excellent.

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OT
New York Area
2 reviews
Dined on February 7, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Always great food and great service. Love this place. We will be back again and again

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KG
1 review
Dined on January 30, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Always excellent! The food, service, everything is always awesome.

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JB
1 review
Dined on January 25, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Amazing. Service was beyond perfect and the food is better than anything in the area. Our food was strategically brought out at perfect times by what was ordered. It flowed perfectly. Personally blown away by the whole experience. I will definitely be back and have no problem referring anyone else that I know to share in the amazing food and extremely thoughtful and knowledgeable staff.

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A
Raleigh
60 reviews
Dined on January 19, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

As always a five star experience. Food is always on point. Just a great place to go and relax and have a great meal. Don’t live in Morehead City, but when I’m there, this is my dining destination.

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OT
1 review
Dined on January 4, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Christmas with friends

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WJ
1 review
Dined on January 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Great dining for special occasions (we went for both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve) or a good casual lunch.

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OT
Raleigh
3 reviews
Dined on January 1, 2019
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

We have been to Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria a number of times. This was our visit on a holiday. We were there New Year's Eve and the restaurant was packed. They were a bit delayed in sitting us and service was a little slower than normal, but it was well worth the wait. The food was absolutely fantastic! I had the brussel sprouts and the lamp chop. Both were amazing! My husband had the brussel sprouts as well and had the rosemary beef. I highly recommend this restaurant for a delicious lunch or dinner. The menu is original and a good break from the typical seafood fare you find in Morehead.

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L
Wilmington
4 reviews
Dined on December 31, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 3ambience 4

We’ve been coming here for years, especially on Holidays, our food was barely room temperature with every course. I mentioned this to our waiter and he acted offended. We never as much received an apology. The taste was delicious, the presentation was impeccable, however it was pretty much cold.

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JU
Wilmington
1 review
Dined on December 31, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We choose this restaurant every time we go out. Service and food are AMAZING!!

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B
Raleigh
2 reviews
Dined on December 28, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We eat here every time we visit the coast, sometimes twice. We love the food. Extremely creative. Great staff also.

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OT
1 review
Dined on December 27, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Awesome place! We’ll be back for sure!

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RR
1 review
Dined on December 8, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We made resos and we're immediately seated by the hostess in a great spot. Our server was very knowledgeable of the menu, specials and wines. Service was outstanding and timed perfectly. Circa 81 just might be one of the top 3 eateries in Eastern NC.

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RR
San Diego
2 reviews
Dined on December 2, 2018
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 3

Delightful as always

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EX
New York Area
16 reviews
Dined on November 26, 2018
Overall 4food 4service 5ambience 4

Has become our neighborhood go-to when we've had a busy day and want to relax with good drinks and thoughtfully prepared and presented, tasty food. Service is friendly and helpful.

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RJ
Wilmington
1 review
Dined on November 25, 2018
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 5

Although the establishment is not known for vegan fare, our wonderful chef was accommodating and prepared several vegan options for us on our 26th anniversary. We were not disappointed. Would definitely go back again!

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K
1 review
Dined on November 18, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Wonderful birthday dinner! Food was amazing, service was great and the drinks were fantastic. Highly recommend for any occasion. In addition to many other small plates, we enjoyed the special feature which was the most perfectly cooked beef wellington. Amazing!

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T
1 review
Dined on November 11, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Each plate that came to our quiet table was like a piece of art, especially in terms of taste. Even a simple sangria had the perfect delicious balance of ingredients, as did every dish. Our waitress was very knowledgeable, precise with her words, explanatory, and very pleasant. She remembered it was our anniversary, and wished us well; this shows professionalism at one's job. Overall, this is our 3rd visit here, and we were not disappointed. It is worth the drive and every dollar.

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DJ
Washington DC
3 reviews
Dined on November 11, 2018
Overall 5food 4service 5ambience 5

Great place to eat, casual and clean. Easy to find. Enjoyed.

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DA
1 review
Dined on November 11, 2018
Overall 3food 3service 1ambience 4

Took too long for service. Didn't even get offered any drinks. Bad when we made reservations.

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OT
Wilmington
1 review
Dined on November 4, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 3ambience 5

We are locals so this is one of our top 3 restaurants we love! The food was phenomenal as always. I can never say enough about the quality of the food! It’s always perfect! Had a slight problem with our waiter. I believe he forgot to put in our cheese and meat tray (not the chef’s tour) as it took 40 minutes to come out. He was spot on everything else after that.

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B
Raleigh
75 reviews
Dined on October 31, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

We've enjoyed this restaurant for several years. The quality is consistent. The menu is creative with something for everyone. Often the specials are unique and excellent. We recommend this restaurant to all our local friends. Looking forward to our next visit.

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OT
Wilmington
5 reviews
Dined on October 8, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Awesome bar service and selection. Owner chatted with us. Dinner tapas were fresh, flavorful, and again the chef came to chat and be sure all was perfect. Will definitely return soon.

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OT
Wilmington
2 reviews
Dined on August 26, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

This is hands down the best place to go! The ambiance, food, and staff are all on point! Seriously don’t ever pass on this place. Everything is beyond excellent.

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SR
Charleston
7 reviews
Dined on August 19, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Great menu, food is excellent. A bit pricey for tapas. Tight seating but a nice indulgence for a date night.

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D
New England
54 reviews
Dined on August 10, 2018
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 4

Seated immediately by a friendly hostess. Had the NC Brown Ale--very good. Tapas were amazing--bacon wrapped dates stuffed with chevre, and chorizo/clams. We both had the beef tenderloin slices over a bed of mashed potatoes, with broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms--beef was cooked to perfection, very good meal. Highly recommend!

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DP
Wilmington
38 reviews
Dined on July 28, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

My wife and I dine out regularly and enjoy many good restaurants in our area. There are few restaurants, however, that have been able to put all the features together that define true excellence. Circa 81 has done this. They offer an interesting and varied menu that includes creative specials. For example, we shared a wonderful dish that included oysters in a delicious risotto. Every dish we’ve ever had a Circa 81 has been skillfully prepared and beautifully presented. The service is absolutely exceptional...knowledgeable, engaging, and skilled. While all of the staff is very good, we love Sonya and ask for her every time we dine at Circa...she is special. So, in summary, they’ve been able to get it all right...a wonderful menu with exciting and varied specials, a kitchen that prepares and presents every dish perfectly, and probably the best servers we’ve experienced anywhere (especially Sonya!).

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R
Raleigh
6 reviews
Dined on July 27, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

We have been to Circa 81 every time we've been to the beach, several times a year. Always the Food and Service has been top notch. As we are in the area several times each visit, we eat at Circa 81 at least once, then try another restaurant coming to the conclusion we need to have all our dinners there.

The food is current, fun and executed with care by a talented kitchen. Clarke, owner, has given his chef the ability to create and use his imagination in the items on the menu. A very refreshing atmosphere where all can be proud of the outcome.

I have been involved in the Food and Beverage industry for more than 45 years and find Circa 81 a place we want to eat, always...

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AM
Charlotte
6 reviews
Dined on July 27, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

We LOVE Circa 81. It's a must do anytime we are in the area. The food is phenomenal. We've never had anything that we didn't like. My personal favorites are the brussel sprouts, the pork dumplings and the stuffed brie. We look forward to dining here again soon!

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HF
Philadelphia
15 reviews
Dined on July 19, 2018
Overall 4food 5service 4ambience 4

Great time and great food. Enjoyed two orders of the crab dip because the first order was so good we had to have more. Potstickers were yummy too. Sesame tuna had a bit too much sesame seeds and could have been a bit more rare. Vanilla and chocolate creme brûlée were fine as was the turtle cheesecake. Would definitely return in the future!

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M
Philadelphia
5 reviews
Dined on July 18, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Food was amazing and so was the staff. Highly recommend and can’t wait to go again next summer.

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MS
Raleigh
1 review
Dined on July 14, 2018
Overall 4food 5service 5ambience 4

We were visiting Emerald Isle and a friend had recommended Circa 81. We took our two teenage boys and were worried that they might not enjoy the foods on the menu. However the menu was diverse we ordered 8 different plates (pork dumplings, beef, lamb special, stuffed Brie, asparagus, roast duck, taco special, crab cakes) and bread service, cocktails and dessert (cheesecakes, key lime pie and plain and chocolate creme brûlée. Everything was fantastic, our boys said it was their favorite meal of the trip. Book early the restaurant is very popular.

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JR
Raleigh
1 review
Dined on June 30, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 4ambience 4

A fantastic creative meal! While the focus is tapas, the “large plates” are great as well, as my in-laws ordered from that portion of the menu. Do not miss the Chef’s Tour charcuterie!

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PH
Washington DC
19 reviews
Dined on June 24, 2018
Overall 4food 3service 4ambience 3

Overall this was a great restaurant. We ordered starters, the she crab soup was served hot and it was delicious. Our group also ordered some small tapas to share. Pork dishes were very good; unfortunately the beef dish was very salty. Dessert choices that evening was four different cheesecakes, one other choice—but I cannot recall what it was. I am not a fan of cheesecake and other choice was not appealing. Wish they had a little more variety for selections. Friends ordered the cheesecake, they thought it was very good.

I would go back to this restaurant when back in the area.

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ET
Raleigh
3 reviews
Dined on June 23, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Wonderful experience as always! Second year in a row we have celebrated our wedding anniversary here and will most likely continue to do so! I have celiac disease and there are so many options it is fantastic. Phenomenal service. Delicious food. Fabulous drinks.

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JM
Raleigh
47 reviews
Dined on June 22, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 4

Promptly seated. Menu updated since the last time we were here. Josh in the kitchen did an excellent job with the tapas we ordered (black bean quesadilla, baked brie, potato crisps, ceviche, the mixed grill). Paul C was excellent as our server. We’ll be back. :)

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DP
Wilmington
38 reviews
Dined on June 16, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Our dining experience at Circa 81 was wonderful in every respect. The food was prepared perfectly, presented skillfully, and absolutely delicious. My wife and I shared the Baked Brie with Pepper Jelly as an appetizer. We each had the house salad. My wife had ranch dressing on her salad. I requested blue cheese. Our server said they might not have blue cheese dressing, but when the salad was served she told us the kitchen made some just for my order. My wife had the pork belly from the tapas menu and I had chicken served on pasta with asparagus and a Gorgonzola cream sauce. We shared a chocolate creme brûlée for dessert. Wow! Every dish from the appetizer to the dessert was exceptional. As great as the food was, the service may actually have been the high point of the evening. Our server, Jamie, was superb...knowledgeable, attentive, immediately responsive to our every need, and just a very engaging person. Simply said, Circa 81 is one of the best restaurants in eastern North Carolina.

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OT
Raleigh
2 reviews
Dined on June 8, 2018
Overall 5food 5service 5ambience 5

Fantastic!!!!!

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