Deep in the heart of the Warehouse District lies Last Concert Cafe, one of Downtown’s earliest underground hotspots.
As any Houstonian worth his or her margarita salt can tell you, Last Concert has always had an air of mystery about it. No sign indicates you're in the correct spot, and hand lettering on the iconic red door instructs patrons to knock twice and wait. Kitchy decorations fill the rambling wood-framed restaurant's interior. Nevertheless, the eccentric hole-in-the-wall, which was originally opened as a bordello by Elena "Mama" Lopez in the 1940s, has transformed into the neighborhood's most sought-out music venue on the northern tip of Downtown.
Food wise, guests can choose from a mixture of fajitas, nachos, enchiladas, or any assortment of tasty Tex-Mex items on the menu. Ask for the Dawn Summer Special, and the chef will cook up a crispy beef taco, bean tostada, and chili con queso tostada plate, paired nicely with freshly made guac. During Sunday brunch, the cornflake crusted pork chops with eggs, Mexican cheese, pico grits and green salsa is a must. If you're searching for a vegan option, the menu delivers with David's Vegan Enchiladas, filled with a tangy blend of corn, black beans, red onions and peppers and smothered with an ancho chili sauce. Top off your meal with fudge flan (richer and denser than the traditional dish) or a creamy slab of tres leches cake topped with whipped cream and walnuts.
If there’s one thing present owner Dawn Fudge takes pride in, it’s serving high-quality dishes made from scratch and tending to customer needs. Fudge took ownership of the restaurant, which had opened and closed several times over the years, in 1986. “Hospitality to me means making our customers feel like they’re part of the family, so the service has to be excellent,” she says. “We’ll recommend dishes, and if there’s a special request we try to accommodate.”
While the staff’s hospitality goes a long way, the cafe’s spacious, beachy outdoor patio is what lures visitors in and keeps them coming back for more. Locals can sip and dine al fresco in the cafe’s beachscape courtyard, catch an impressive range of national and local acts on the elevated stage, dance in free-spirited drum circles and get funky at their annual festivities, including the Watermelon Dance and Summer Social and Praia Urbana. “People’s heads swirl when they come here and see all of this. But to see that whole patio full of people having a great time, that’s a good moment. It’s like a big family here,” shares Fudge.
That family extends all the way down to the thriving art community in the Warehouse District. Art is showcased throughout the restaurant’s colorful walls – quirky Mexican décor and the iconic Frida Kahlo mural hugging the café’s exterior. Frida has long been a hero of Fudge, so she was elated to see the mural come to life. “I love her art, am intrigued with her story, and have always been a big fan,” Fudge says. On the opposite side of the wall, the patio serves as an open gallery every year when the popular Art Crawl takes over the neighborhood.
As for the future of the Warehouse District, Fudge hopes that the historical buildings continue to evolve into interesting places. In the meantime, the historical landmark will continue to open its doors to anyone who isn’t afraid to get weird. Just head to 1403 Nance and knock twice on the red door for admittance.