Aurora's Hangout

Always a classic, Last Concert Café is now a historic landmark: Former speakeasy gets protected status

Always a classic, Last Concert Café is now a historic landmark: Former speakeasy gets protected status

News_Last Concert Cafe
Last Concert Cafe

Can we call it the Terms of Endearment effect?

Last Concert Café, the scruffy Tex-Mex joint on the north side of downtown, officially received protected landmark status from the City of Houston last week. In the artsy warehouse district, Last Concert is known by its red door — there's no sign on the building, and you have to knock to be admitted.

The owners have changed, but the space has been serving Mexican fare with a side of music on Nance since it was opened by Elena "Mama" Lopez in 1949. According to current owner Dawn Fudge, Last Concert was originally a kind of speakeasy, which explains the lack of signage and the knock to enter system.

"It was always a place where musicians would come and play," Fudge says. "Many of them would have larger gigs that would end around 10, and they would come here after and drink and play to the middle of the night. It was always that kind of place."

Fudge says Lopez's sister ran a complementary business — a brothel — from the house next door. That structure, which dates back to 1860, has been approved and placed on the National Register.

Protected landmark status means the property can't be demolished or fundamentally altered. Fudge says that doesn't change her plans for a covered extension of the deck and other improvements, but that the status does add "more red tape."

While Last Concert serves decent fajitas, the draw here is the laid-back atmosphere and the live music on the spacious interior patio most nights, including a famous drum circle on Wednesdays. It's also known as the favorite dive haunt of socialite Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) in Terms of Endearment.