Hometown Brew

Creating community in the Fort Worth Stockyards, The Railcar honors the American West… one latte at a time.

Written by Constance Dunn

When you walk into The Railcar in Fort Worth for a cup of the house drip, named Cowboy Coffee, or a glass of bubbly, it’s likely your eyes will be drawn to a colorful mural stretching across an entire wall. It’s the image of a train car with a gathering of famous Western faces. John Wayne rides in front. There’s Annie Oakley and cowboy Bill Pickett, along with white-bearded poet and musician Red Steagall, and artist Stylle Read—creator of this and a slew of other murals around Cowtown.

It’s a visual homage not just to the American West, but to history-laden enclave, the Stockyards. It’s fitting to find this mural at The Railcar, a local business that owner Kristin Brown opened in early 2021 to bring her creative lineup of caffeinated drinks to town—and celebrate Western culture. “I grew up in Houston, but my dad has always been a rancher,” says Brown, who started coming to the Stockyards and her family’s nearby ranch as a child. “I spent a lot of my time on the ranch, helping with the cattle and horses.”

When you saddle up to the counter to order a Toxic Relationship (a blend of beer and cold-brew coffee), a signature drink like The Railcar (a medium-sweet latte with a waft of smoke on the back end), or the popular Space Cowboy—a latte spiked with lavender syrup and a scoop of organic charcoal—it’s created with an exacting level of detail. “It takes a lot of care to make a consistent cup of coffee,” notes Brown, who several years ago switched gears from studying telecommunications and film at University of Alabama to immersing herself in the art and science of coffee-making. At Railcar, beans are ground on-site and shots are “pulled” for each cup of coffee. Espresso is tasted every hour to make sure the taste remains the same throughout the day since a host of factors, like sun and temperature, can impact flavor.

“Putting something super-modern like a coffee shop in the Stockyards probably sounded strange to a lot of people,” points out Brown. “But for me it was about going back to my childhood and honoring my dad’s Western lifestyle.” Even the name, The Railcar, has local significance. “It was the main hub for bringing cattle in the West,” she says of the railroad that first opened here in the 1870s. While her rancher father, who is also publisher of the magazine Cowboys & Indians, may have inspired the spirit of the place, Brown’s interior designer mother crafted the welcoming look of The Railcar, down to the red brick walls and earthy planks of white oak along the floor.

“Putting something super-modern like a coffee shop in the Stockyards probably sounded strange to a lot of people.”

— Kristin Brown

As the first new coffee shop in the Stockyards, The Railcar honors the American West in another important way: by providing a convivial gathering spot where strangers become friends, and local ties are deepened—and amplified by the warm buzz of Brown’s creative coffee drinks. “All of our neighbors here in the Stockyards have been really welcoming,” she says of the community, which is home to many tributes to the American West, like the nearby 10,000-square-foot exhibit, John Wayne: An American Experience. Not surprisingly, Brown is a fan of The Duke. “Always have been,” she says, naming The Searchers (1956), True Grit (1969) and Big Jake (1971) as her favorites, and adding with a laugh: “that just comes with the territory.”

Photographs by Lorenzo D. courtesy of The Railcar