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Our Team










Clarke Merrell



Clarke is the owner of Beaufort Olive Oil Company. He is also the Executive Chef and Owner of Circa 81 Tapas & Cocktaileria, Prime Bistro & Wine Bar and Dank Burrito.


Circa 81 opened on January 20, 2010. Many people often ask where the name comes from. Clarke and his wife, Liza, were both born in 1981. Circa means "about or approximately" and they both thought it fit perfectly with the number 81. Clarke's 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. 


Clarke grew up working in the restaurant industry, as his parents took over operations at Atlantic Beach's DJ Shooters in 1988. He is a graduate of Swansboro High School. Clarke graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts from the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. Clarke has worked in a variety of restaurants and learned from some very talented, like-minded award-winning chefs. 


In July of 2012 Clarke opened up the Twisted Spoon, a frozen yogurt bar. In March 2013 Clarke opened up Beaufort Olive Oil Company, offering premium oils and vinegars, exotic salts and specialty provisions. Beaufort Olive Oil Company allows shoppers to sample any of the oils and vinegars and see recipe and pairing suggestions. The products are free of additives and preservatives, organically grown and you can truly taste the difference. Clarke uses many of the oils, vinegars and salts in dishes at Circa 81.


In May of 2014 Clarke rolled out a food truck, called the Dank Burrito. Dank means "fresh" or "of high quality." Clarke has created delicious, unique burritos and tacos using a variety of proteins, housemade salsas, slaws, and kimchi, just to name a few. The food truck operates all around Carteret and surrounding counties. The Dank Burrito opened its first restaurant location in October 2015 in Morehead City, while continuing to also travel with the food truck and then in August 2017 a Beaufort location of Dank Burrito opened. Dank Burrito was named 2014 National Food Truck Rookie of the Year and 2016 Graphic Design of the Year by


Clarke was named 2015 Arnold Murray Small Business Person of the Year by the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce. Circa 81 has participated in the NC Seafood Festival Chef's Tent and People's Choice Crabcake competition, the Beaufort Wine & Food Festival (where Clarke won 3rd place in 2013’s Chef’s competition), and the Fire on the Dock culinary competition (where team Circa 81 was a 2013 finalist and 2014 semi-finalist). Circa 81 was also finalist for the 2011 Best Dish NC contest. Clarke was named Favorite Chef in 2015 by Coaster Magazine Reader's Choice Awards. Circa 81 was named "Best Eats on the Crystal Coast" by Cooking with Paula Deen magazine in 2015. Circa 81 has been named Open Table Diner's Choice 2013-2018. Circa 81 is also a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Winner.

Interested in joining our team? We are always looking for passionate, service-oriented, motivated people - email us your info at

Visit any of our locations:

300 Front Street, Beaufort NC **contact this location for shipping needs including overseas military base shipping**

8700 Emerald Drive, Emerald Isle NC 

412 Evans Street, Morehead City NC

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