Rails, a Cafe at the Depot a popular place for history buffs, foodies

Melissa Southern stands by the sign in front of Rails, a Cafe at the Depot. The well-known local eatery is housed in Kerrville’s old railroad depot, making it a popular place for history buffs and railroad enthusiasts alike. 

Dining at new restau- rants is high on the list of “must do’s” for vacation- ers, according to a 2018 Zagat survey. A vacation is the perfect time to indulge in local cuisine, claim 56 percent of those polled, who indicate they would seek out dining spots to enjoy a locale’s must-try dishes.

Visiting historical sites is also popular with many travelers, and fortunately for visitors to Kerrville’s Rails, a Café at the Depot, they’ll nd both in one convenient spot.

The restaurant site was originally the depot for the San Antonio & Aransas Pass passenger train back in 1887. Although that depot burned in 1913, rem- nants remain of the second depot built in 1915.

Rails’ owners Melissa Southern and John Hagerla saw an opportunity to restore this iconic land- mark and purchased the property 15 years ago. They painstakingly kept “anything that was origi- nal or could be restored,” including the grand win- dow arches and walk-up ticket counter.

Today, the interior accommodates 45 diners, and the adjacent courtyard seats 55.

Hagerla and Southern combined their talents (he was in food market- ing and she was a licensed dietician) to open the res- taurant and offer healthy yet delicious menu choices. It was instantly a hit with the lunch and din- ner crowd, with favorites such as Farmer’s Market Salad (still popular after 15 years), Grilled Quail Salad and Mahi Mahi Lettuce Wraps.

Success soon demanded expansion, and the com- plex now includes the Catering by Rails Cafe event center, The Sweeter Side of Rails dessert shoppe and, most recently, the charming Sleepy Side of Rails guest house.

Business comes through many loyal regulars, word of mouth, an enticing website and stellar online reviews.

Southern says many out- of-towners stop in because they are railroad buffs or are intrigued by its histori- cal setting. (Two Recorded Texas Historic Landmark signs are on site.)

Southern and Hagerla have about 30 employ- ees in all of their enter- prises, a good indication that careers in the restau- rant business may be a viable choice. According to a study by Upserve Restaurant Insider, there are 15.1 million restaurant industry employees in the U.S., and 1.6 million new restaurant jobs will be cre- ated by 2028.

Opportunities to move up the ladder are plentiful; nine out of 10 restaurant managers started at an entry-level position.

Rails, a Café at the Depot, is at 615 East Schreiner St., Kerrville. Railscafe.com

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