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Dining with Mel Krupin

Local restaurateur finally lets loose

Created date

July 23rd, 2013

When Brooklyn, N.Y., native Mel Krupin decided to take a chance and move to Washington, D.C., for a job opportunity in 1968, he didn t know anyone in the city. Today, he is a household name, well known for the now-closed Tenleytown restaurant that bore his name for most of the 1980s. Mel first came to Washington to work as manager of the legendary Duke Zeibert s, a Connecticut Avenue restaurant that was frequented in its heyday by presidents, senators, congressmen, sports figures, and well-known journalists. Mel says a friend had first asked him to relocate to Washington to take the job in 1966. He initially turned down the offer because he and his wife Gloria had young children. When the opportunity presented itself again a couple of years later, Mel seized it. Mel moved to Washington after Labor Day in 1968. Gloria and the children remained in New York for several more months, and the family took turns traveling to be together on the weekends. In 1969, Gloria and the Krupin kids joined Mel in Washington. Soon after, the family moved to Chevy Chase, where they lived for 36 years.

Movers, shakers, and matzoh balls

Meanwhile, Mel was building his career at Duke Zeibert s and rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers who dined there. Joe DiMaggio, Tip O Neil, and Larry King are just a few of the famous people Mel had the opportunity to meet while working at Duke Zeibert s. It was a good clientele, Mel says of the well-known guests who dined there. In 1980, Duke Zeibert retired and shuttered his restaurant. That is when Mel s next big opportunity presented itself. I was working as a consultant for someone who had a deli on Connecticut Avenue, and he said, Why don t you buy me out? Mel recalls. Mel decided to take his colleague up on that offer, and he purchased the Connecticut Avenue deli which he renamed Mel Krupin s. Mel served steaks, chops, and a variety of traditional Jewish deli fare at his new restaurant. Mel Krupin s attracted the same kind of high-profile customers that used to eat at Duke Zeibert s. Mel says Hillary Clinton and Ted Koppel were among the public figures who dined at his restaurant. Gloria says she would work as a hostess at Mel Krupin s on the weekends, and the couple remembers that period as a proud and happy time in their lives. A whole new life opened up for us when we moved here, Gloria says of her and her husband s early years in Washington, D.C. When Mel first opened his eponymous restaurant, he had taken many of the waiters from Duke Zeibert s with him. Three years after closing his restaurant, Duke Zeibert decided to reopen. Duke hired away 28 of Mel s employees, launching what came to be known as the matzoh ball wars between the two Connecticut Avenue restaurants. Mel Krupin s made The Washingtonian s 100 Very Best Restaurants list, Mel recalls proudly. Another accolade of sorts that Mel got a kick out of was when his restaurant was featured on prime time television. The restaurant was on The West Wing, Mel says. On the show, someone brought the president a sandwich from Krupin s. Mel decided to sell Mel Krupin s in 1988. He stayed on as a consultant for a few years. The restaurant was later renamed Morty s, for Mel s brother who managed it after Mel sold it. The beloved and well-known restaurant eventually closed in 1999.

Famous restaurateur at your service

The sale of Mel Krupin s didn t signal the end of Mel s career. He went on to work at the Washington Court Hotel and later opened a deli. Mel made his first attempt at retiring in 2002, but not working didn t suit him. After a few months, I said to my wife, I ve got to do something, Mel says. Mel saw an ad in the paper that McCormick & Schmick s was hiring a maitre d . Mel decided to apply for the job. After he turned in his application, he was told that the manager wanted to see him. She looked at my application and said, Mel Krupin? Your father was a famous restaurateur, Mel recalls with a laugh. I said, I m Mel Krupin! Needless to say, Mel was hired at McCormick & Schmick s. He worked there for a decade and finally decided to give retirement another try last year. In April, Mel and Gloria moved from Chevy Chase to. target="_blank">Riderwood, an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring. Being here is like being on a vacation, Mel says of his new home. When I sit in the dining room, I feel like I m at a resort. Gloria says she loves the convenience of living at Riderwood. The 120-acre community features a host of on-site amenities like a medical center with dedicated physicians, a pharmacy, a convenience store, and five full-service restaurants, all of which Gloria says makes life a lot easier. Here, a lot of things are done for you, Gloria says. All we have to do is make breakfast. In the evenings, Mel and Gloria usually dine at one of Riderwood s restaurants. Mel says the food is good and the service is pleasant high compliments coming from an accomplished restaurateur. Having someone like Mel Krupin dining at the restaurant where you cook or wait tables could be an intimidating experience. But Mel has put Riderwood s restaurant staff at ease and is happy to lend some of the wisdom of his decades of experience. I met with the chef and the executive director, and I said, If there s anything you need, just let me know, Mel says. And when he and Gloria are dining with new friends at Riderwood s restaurants, Mel will periodically give the wait staff, many of whom are local high school students, some tips about the proper ways to wait tables advice that could come in handy if any of them decide to pursue a career in the restaurant business. The kids in the restaurant are very nice, Mel says. I ve given them little tips like Remember to serve the women at the table first or Don t forget to bring a steak knife when you serve a steak.