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March 27, 2008

Big welcome to new sponsor Arnold & Porter LLP. And a salute to Justine Fitzgerald, recently promoted to Counsel for the firm. Justine represents local developers and owners including Four Points, LLC. And for GW, she recently closed its ground lease to Boston Properties of Square 54. Congrats to all!


In keeping with the spring break atmosphere around town this week, we thought we'd talk about real estate people's favorite subject (other than golf). April 1 marks the 6th anniversary of Mel Krupin as maitre d' at McCormick & Schmick's on K Street. What's the big deal about that?  For anyone of a certain age, that's like saying Gerald Ford is still around DC, giving tours of the White House. In his heyday as GM of Duke Ziebert's ('68-'80) then owner of his own Mel Krupin's ('80-'88), Mel was about as well-known and powerful as any President—the legendary arbiter of social status at the hottest two restaurants of the day, who could sit you up front or back in Siberia.


Above at his station yesterday is the same old Mel, the wisecracking Brooklander who told one of his regulars that we were interviewing him for Playboy. Going to Duke's or Mel's in the late 60's through 80's was like Café Milano, BLT, and the Tower Club rolled into one. You'd often see Tip O'Neill, Edward Bennett Williams, Larry King, Art Buchwald, David Brinkley, and Bob Strauss, though Mel recalls the occasional visit by Jimmy Hoffa, Vince Lombardi, Bob Haldeman, Abe Fortas (whose wife, he recalls, smoked a cigar), Charlton Heston, and even Twiggy.  At one point he and Duke were in business at the same time, lobbing grenades at each other in the form of the famous "matzoh ball wars."  (Think Barack and Hillary in competing restaurants a block apart.)


Later, Mel set up a deli style restaurant on upper Wisconsin that his younger brother and nephew now run, but preferring the downtown scene he reappeared at M&S. Above, the Korean War vet and former Boy Scout joked that this limo was his ride to and from the restaurant.  Mel said he originally got into the hospitality industry after learning, as campfire cook on scouting trips and later as a mess sergeant in the Army, that "whoever cooks gets to eat first."


Who cares about the movies—Washingtonians are more on the edge of their seats for the famous RAMMY restaurant nominations. Tuesday night at the DC Ritz, we were on hand as candidates were announced for New Restaurant of the Year:  Brasserie Beck, Central Michel Richard, Hook, Proof, The Source. And for lots of other categories. Here, we ran into Hook owner/executive chef Barton Seaver and Restaurant Association of Washington prez Lynne Breaux


Restaurant Association Chair Paul Cohn (co-founder of the firm that owns and operates Georgia Brown’s and J.Paul’s, among others), Santa Lucia Coffee's Jodi Lehr, and Zola and Red Sage owner Dan Mesches. Dan says his next creation is a yet-to-be-named Italian eatery later this year at 15th and H.  Winners will be announced at the 26th Annual RAMMY Gala on June 2 at the Marriott Wardman Park.  Supreme irony: All these great chefs are the guests, not cooks, but the food is ordinarily edible anyway.

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