Giving Last Concert Cafe One Last Chance

Categories: Local Spotlight

Last Concert Cafe 002.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Is Last Concert Cafe "Real" and I just don't understand it?
Although I live within walking distance of Last Concert Cafe, I've avoided it like that creepy quasi-homeless dude on my street who calls me "Ladybug" since I first moved into the Warehouse District this past summer. Make no mistake: I love my eclectic, colorful neighborhood and its unpredictable nature.

I love the parties thrown at the House of Creeps and the Ballistics' Skate House that last late into the evenings. I love walking my dog at night to the sounds of Bang Bangz or Venomous Maximus rehearsing in nearby studio spaces. I love the juxtaposition of Oxheart -- one of the classiest, most startlingly mature restaurants in Houston -- next door to a tattoo studio decorated with Santa Muertes. I love the white-bearded gentlemen whom we all call Santa Claus, who builds fires in front of his loft on cool evenings and invites passersby to sit and have a drink with him. I love the yearly Art Crawl -- which celebrated its 20th anniversary this past November -- and I love the sight of the classic Houston Studios neon sign lit up against the downtown skyline each night.

But I don't love Last Concert Cafe. The people who invade the Warehouse District to attend Art Crawl or a CD release party at the Ballistics' Skate House or dine at Oxheart or watch a punk show at the House of Creeps are considerate. The people who come out to the shows that Last Concert Cafe throws most nights of the week are not.

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I feel like a NIMBY-pamby whiner whenever I see them urinating in the streets or stumbling around with a joint in hand or toting hula hoops from their car to whatever bizarre act Last Concert has booked that night. I hate that I'm the person yelling at random cars to "slow down!" as they careen through the narrow streets, or threatening to call the tow company if they don't stop blocking the entrance to our parking lot at home.

Between the motley crew of nightly patrons and the last encounter I had with Last Concert Cafe's food -- which I remembered as being decidedly average -- I've had little inclination to eat there despite the fact that I constantly bemoan our lack of a "real" neighborhood cafe and despite the fact that I can throw a shoe at it from my front door.

I felt a pang of guilt while walking my dog last week that I'd been so hateful about Last Concert Cafe, though. The restaurant has been in its rickety little red-and-white building since 1949, amazingly spared from the wrecking ball when the East Freeway was built through here in the 1960s.

Its patrons absolutely adore the place, and the fact that you still have to knock on its cherry-red front door to gain admittance. They love the feral cat-infested courtyard and the wooden stage out back that hosts jam bands and drum circles. The restaurant is even featured in a Larry McMurtry book you may remember: Terms of Endearment. So why haven't I been able to find the place endearing?

I decided right then and there to head to Last Concert for dinner, toting along a friend who's lived in the area much longer than I. He -- like many of my neighbors -- rarely eats there, but knocked on the front door like an old pro.

Last Concert Cafe 004.jpg
The tacos at Last Concert taste like Family Taco Night when I was kid in the 1980s. (This is not necessarily a bad thing.)
"That bartender has been here forever," my friend noted as we settled into the very same booth I'd occupied last time I'd eaten here, on a first date more than a decade ago. A watery bowl of overly-garlicky salsa accompanied some standard tortilla chips within minutes of us being seated, but our friendly waitress was so genuine and warm that I could see why people wouldn't care so much about the food.

Most of the dishes on the menu are named after longtime patrons, several of whom were already decamped inside the restaurant at 5 p.m. They gathered near the time-worn bar under gaudy Christmas Lights and watched the evening news together as if Last Concert Cafe were their own living room. One man sported fuzzy gray slippers on feet that dangled off a bar stool.

We ordered enchiladas and tacos -- mine vegan, my friend's cheese -- and sat back to wait in the pleasantly small, pleasantly knick-knack-laden dining room. On one wall, I spotted a Houston Press Best of Houston® award so faded I couldn't make out the year. It reminds me of the old Pig Stand, another restaurant which also features prominently in the film version of Terms of Endearment. Last Concert is time-worn and comfortable, noble in its dated kitschiness that's a testament to its longevity.

Last Concert Cafe 008.jpg
As it was 10 years ago, the food was nothing to write home about. My enchiladas were very dry although the various vegetables inside were well-cooked. My friend's enchiladas were covered in a dull chile gravy that dampened the nicely gooey cheese, although we both agreed that there was no fault to be found with a bowl of classic Tex-Mex queso (which we dumped all over our rice and beans like middle schoolers).

As we left that evening, I thought of the Skin Horse's opening speech from the seminal childhood book The Velveteen Rabbit.

Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people that don't understand.

Perhaps I'm just one of those people who doesn't understand, I mused to myself later that night, watching as a friend's band unloaded equipment from an SUV into the House of Creeps -- cattycorner from Last Concert -- for a show that would mark the first leg of their tour. Last Concert Cafe is beloved and Real to its fans, and that's all that matters.

A few seconds later, one of those fans came barreling down the street and tore the door clean off the band's SUV with a thud and a crunch, narrowly avoiding the astonished drummer who was standing inches away. The fan stumbled out of his car and berated the drummer for having his door open -- while parked on the side of the street -- before reluctantly agreeing to provide his insurance information. As he attempted to steer his own car away from the wreck, he hit another object -- this time, a ragged stump near the entrance to my parking lot -- and cursed loudly into the night as he backed his car off the gnarled wood.

Nevermind.



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Location Info

Last Concert Cafe

1403 Nance St., Houston, TX

Category: Music


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56 comments
bermeaboy88
bermeaboy88

I have always enjoyed Last Concert Cafe and all of its eclectic attraction. The food is good, and reasonably priced. Ive been in the neighborhood sometime and realize the drunken idiots and stoners arent all centrally located there. House of Creeps shares a likeness with their name. Get over yourself and your hateful bantering on a place that brings character to a diverse neighborhood... ha! Nimby pamby.... seriously?

Madam
Madam

LCC is dirty and disgusting.  How this place is still in business is beyond me.  I guess the stoned folks aren't picky about the food they eat.  I am suprised I did not see roaches crawling on the walls...even they stay away.

someonex
someonex

Oh my God, we get it already... You moved into some place in EaDo with your boyfriend and got him a job writing unnecessary and snarky blogs for this paper and you endlessly plug whatever the Houston House of Creeps is...  Can you please focus on the food rather than on yourself when you write? 

davelister
davelister

1. hit piece
an attempt to turn public opinion against someone/something through the appearance of objective reporting or editorializing.

davelister
davelister

Seems like a hit piece.Have you discussed any of these problems with the owner of the Last Concert?

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

but on a different note, the "Paul's Tostada Burger" is pretty tasty....

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

Some basic math:

"I feel like a NIMBY-pamby whiner" + "I'm the person yelling at random cars to "slow down!" as they careen through the narrow streets, or threatening to call the tow company if they don't stop blocking the entrance to our parking lot at home"  =  Elitist Hipster.  

Makes you sound like one of those folks that actually own a home by Anvil or <enter trendy new spot of the day here> that don't want the same people blocking their driveways, or urinating on their front yards.........


Tom Williams
Tom Williams

I like Last Concert Cafe because at least I can get some enchailadas after a meal at Oxheart.

marmer
marmer

I played in a blues band in the '90s that played there several times.  The food was average at best but the atmosphere and people were very inviting.  Maybe something has changed because we never saw douchey patrons.  Or maybe we just weren't good enough to attract douchebags.  That is certainly possible.

johnk
johnk

 I find this review confusing.  It seems your issue w/ Last Concert is b/c you live right by it.  Sure, the food is average.  Not all that uncommon for a Tex-Mex restaurant.  But it's very reasonably priced.  And like the other comments, most people don't go there JUST for the food.  It's about the atmosphere and the service, which I have always found to be excellent.  It's the entire experience that makes it so charming and inviting.  It seems your main complaint is about your encounters with the "fans" OUTSIDE of the venue, not even with the venue or staff itself.  Doesn't that come w/ the territory of living right by a live music venue/club/restaurant??? I live down the street from Plonk, which you name the best in Oak Forest.  Yes, the food is very good (and very overpriced).  But once a month the guy has live music outside that is so loud and amplified my entire house shakes.  It kinda changes my opinion about the place.  Would you feel differently about Last Concert if you didn't live a "shoe-throw" away from the joint?  Perhaps.

tlafaver
tlafaver

LCC is a Houston icon.  It's been in that same location many years before any of the "hipster" joints you mention.  They were a pioneer in an out of the way, not so popular area.  Too bad you moved into a neighborhood you don't like.  Perhaps you should have checked out the social scene before making your move.  You need to learn a greater appreciation for history.

Joshua Justice
Joshua Justice

How high do you have to be to brainlessly defend LCC against a light hearted blog post? High enough to take your shoes off in lcc's kitty litter sandbox.

Santorini
Santorini

I see Last Concert as a slightly more soulful predecessor to Chuy's; both are essentially Anglo joints with a dizzying display of kitsch to make up for anything real. The location is sorta bad boy and the grounds/stage/entertainment can be seen as saving graces if you're really pressing hard to find some. There are, however, way better choices for both food and entertainment.

Anybody remember Adrian's downtown?

Mary Miller
Mary Miller

Hey KS - pull the stick out of your a**.

Ian T. Komouss
Ian T. Komouss

I'm thinking it's time I start keeping tabs on K's negative reviews, and clip them out and send them back to the ones that advertise on the Houston Press. Then maybe one of three things would happen 1) She'd get over herself 2)HP will hire a new food writer or 3)HP will stop letting her write the entire paper from time to time.

sugarpie4all
sugarpie4all

Used to get some completely forgetable to-go food there while working on shows at Atomic Cafe back in the day.  There used to be theater stuff there, too;  saw an unbelievabale Marat/Sade by, um..., Shirkworkers Union (?).  It  had Jim Parsons in it.  Seem to remember an awesome version of Cowboy Mouth, also.  The food was completely incidental to what else was going on.   Terms of Endearment is one of the best things ever written with a Houston setting, but the movie sucks dead dogs. 

Hayden Greenwade
Hayden Greenwade

I no longer go there. The atmosphere is classic but the food sucks, the caliber of bands is weak, and the customer base has de-evolved, over the years, to bastions of frat-boys and hipster-punks. Oh well, nothing "lasts" forever.

Patricia Noble
Patricia Noble

I love that place. The musical talent is the best!

carriebwc
carriebwc

Interesting, because we eat there for lunch every month or so, and I find the food somewhat above average.  The longer I live here, the more it seems that Tex-Mex tends to be a personal taste thing. And that's okay, because there are plenty of places to get it.  Some days I want Mexican at Last Concert, some days I want it at Spanish Village, and some days I want it at Teotihuacan.  I don' t think their concerts at night would be my scene, though.

Dunstan
Dunstan

Spanish Village is an example of a 'real' neighborhood place that has a fascinating history behind it, as well as some terrific food. And as a bonus, they care enough about the neighbors that they forbid just coming in for drinks; you've got to order food with your poison.

susanterrywilhelm
susanterrywilhelm

Before they enlarged and created the larger outdoor venue, Last Concert was really quaint and the food much better than in my more recent visits.  Now the outdoor area sometimes can have the fill of a litter box and the quality of the food has declined BIG TIME!  Does Dawn Fudge to own/operate?

Tracy Morris
Tracy Morris

Aw c'mon. She likened LCC to The Velveteen Rabbit! It's all good.

Brian Borrego
Brian Borrego

^Houston Press will survive without you. This article was entertaining. Reminded me of the reasons why I haven't been to Last Concert since me late teen years ha

Ryan Pratt
Ryan Pratt

This is a Houston Landmark!! The food is great and the atmosphere is fun! Go Dawn Go! Screw the HoustonPress. I might have to unfollow them just for this article!

Andres Hernandez
Andres Hernandez

You're doing it wrong. This is not supposed to be a place for eating.

Stacie Arthur
Stacie Arthur

I will not eat there...roaches every where but great place for live music!

Jason French
Jason French

I'm pretty sure you have to wait until AFTER 4:20 for it to work right.

mr_wired
mr_wired

The review is altogether accurate, the food is just average. I don't think most of the late night patrons care, because they probably have a severe case of the munchies. The area to left of the stage usually looks like a scene from a Cheech and Chong movie. I'm not criticizing those who do that, I'm just jealous because I have a teenager, and that type of activity is off limits for the time being.

FRL713
FRL713

I've always had a good time at LCC even as my trips have become more sporadic in recent years.  Kicking off your shoes and dancing in the sand is fun for the free spirits the place attracts.  I certainly don't go for the food, however the crowd is one of the friendlier in town.  For the record, my wife hates the place, but she is a bit of a square :)

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

I just don't understand who their paying customers are.  I live next door and I don't know what is going on 95% of the time but 5 nights a week, hippies and yuppies and every flavor in between stagger into LCC by the dozens then tear ass off into the night like stoned drunken morons. I suppose someone does listen to the ads on 90.1

kshilcutt
kshilcutt editor

@someonex This is only the second time I've mentioned the House of Creeps on the blog, albeit briefly. Sounds like someone follows my personal Twitter account!  :)

chetbellman
chetbellman

@davelister  

So is an editorial a 'hit piece'? Is there any such thing as objective reporting? Where does a blog piece fall in the spectrum of 'objective' reporting and a pure editorial?

Some blogs in town recycle press releases. That,I suppose, would please you. Except that they are designed to sway public opinion. I'm just totally confused by your idea of a hit piece. Help me understand.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@texmex01 Additional maths: "I feel like a NIMBY-pamby whiner" = I know exactly how all of these complaints make me sound. Although I don't think hipsters threaten to tow. I think they're the ones usually being towed for parking like...well...hipster a-holes.

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@johnk We publish a weekly cafe review in our print edition. You can find the online versions of these cafe reviews here: http://www.houstonpress.com/restaurants/reviews/ Everything contained here at Eating...Our Words is just a blog post. Not a review. We try to delineate our reviews from our blog posts very clearly, as they're contained in entirely different sections of the website. And I would never go into a long, personal spiel in a review. This. Is just. A lighthearted. Blog post.

Bruce_Are
Bruce_Are topcommenter

@Santorini  

Chuy's can be very good. Their hatch sauce is excellent--it's one of the spicier sauces you'll find at a Houston-area Tex-Mex joint.

H_e_x
H_e_x

@Ryan Pratt 1830: Sam Houston beats fellow congressman for disagreeing with him.

2013: Internet commenter threatens to shun free newspaper for disagreeing with him.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@J.A.Justice Any crazy parties lately at 910 Hardy? That old firehouse is sweet. I almost rented it once.

Pffft
Pffft

@H_e_x  It's free because no one would pay for it even if it even cost a quarter.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Kylejack @J.A.Justice Not that I've seen  One of the guys from PondeRosa (the rundown Rob Zombie movie set house next to LCC) lives there last I heard.

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