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    The Hobbit restaurant temporarily closing for renovations
    • September 29, 2023

    Shortly after announcing the retirement of owners Mike and Debra Philippi, the Hobbit, a prix-fixe restaurant in the city of Orange, will halt service starting Saturday, Oct. 9, according to office manager Jodi McGuire.

    The storied restaurant will undergo a renovation over the next few weeks with an anticipated re-opening date in early December.

    “After 50 years at the helm, it’s with great joy (that) Debra and I announce our retirement,” Mike Philippi said in a written statement posted to his restaurant’s website. General Manager Matthew McKinney will take over as the Hobbit’s new owner and operator.

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    Named after J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, the restaurant has achieved acclaim since it opened in 1972 for its unique three-act concept and dining experience. Located in a converted Spanish Revival-style home on Chapman Avenue, the Hobbit raked up numerous awards, including Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence and top ratings in the Zagat Guide.

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    Mike Philippi, doing double duty as co-owner and executive chef, prepared food in the French manner with entrees like wild mushroom-stuffed filet mignon or beef wellington making frequent menu appearances. “The drill is this: At 7 p.m., guests arrive at the wine cellar, which stocks more 1,000 labels, for hors d’oeuvres and a flute of Champagne, over which they decide on the wine to have with dinner,” the Orange County Register wrote in 2016. Guests then head upstairs for the first course, followed by a “palate-cleansing sorbet” to make way for the main course, conversation and dessert.

    When the Hobbit opens its doors again later this year, it will still maintain its six-course prix-fixe menu, starting at 7 p.m. sharp, with only one seating per evening.

    “It has been our greatest pleasure and honor watching our guests, friends and family create unique memories year after year — celebrating special occasions, accomplishments, or those ‘just because’ moments,” continued Mike Philippi, adding, “Who knows, we may run into each other sipping Hobbit bubbles and enjoying hors d’oeuvres in the wine cellar. You never know who you may run into.”

    ​ Orange County Register