COLUMBIA CITY STATION
If you are a drinker, this is a station you need to know about. Othello Station, by contrast, has lots of great places to eat, but no bars of distinction. The same goes for Rainier Beach Station. There are several good bars near Columbia City Station, however.
Lottie's (4900 Rainier Ave S) is a very relaxed place serving food and drinks. Happy Hour: 3–6 pm daily, $5 wells, $2.50 Rainier tallboys, $1 off drafts, signature cocktails, wines by the glass, and all food; late night 10 pm–close, $2 tallboys, $6 well shot and tallboys.
Island Soul (4869 Rainier Ave S) is a very cool place that serves Caribbean food. Happy Hour: 4–6 pm Mon–Thurs, 4–6 pm and 9–11 pm Fri, 9–11 pm Sat; $4 draft, $1 off bottled beer, $6 house red or white wine by the glass, $2 off signature cocktails plus daily cocktail specials; $5 fries, $10 po'boys, $9 seafood.
Clock-Out (4864 Beacon Ave S) is one of the most happening spots on Beacon Hill right now—but it is easier to get to via Columbia City Station, assuming you can manage the 0.6-mile (some parts uphill) walk. Your reward? A Midwestern pan pizza slice or whole pie from Breezy Town Pizza, located inside. Happy Hour: 4–6 pm daily, 20 percent off all salads, slices, and small plates.
BEACON HILL STATION
If you ever find yourself at the Mount Baker Station and are looking for a place to drink, don't bother leaving the train. Take it one stop further (or get off one stop early, depending on the direction you are headed) to Beacon Hill Station, step off the train, enter an elevator, take it up to ground level, exit, and stroll onto Beacon Avenue.
Baja Bistro (2414 Beacon Ave S) is a small bar that is urban and so gay-friendly, it's part of what writer David Schmader once called "Little Castro." Happy Hour: 3–6 pm daily, $3 beer, $7 wells and wine by the glass, $8 margaritas; $2.50 tacos, $2 off all appetizers.
Vegan- and GF-friendly burger and sandwich joint the Oak (3019 Beacon Ave S) has another worthy happy hour you'd be well-served to drop into. Their draft menu is full of Seattle area microbrews and you can taste a few for less during happy hour. Happy Hour: 4–6 pm daily, all day Sun, $1 off all draft beers, wine by the glass, well liquor, and entire cocktail menu, $6 Oly & Crows; late night menu available upon request ($3–$9).
INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT/CHINATOWN STATION
Movie-loving drinkers will be infinitely pleased by the entryway that leads into the Dynasty Room (714 S King St). Not only is it protected by a wolf, but its mood and texture of light achieve the condition of pure cinema. The bar itself is not so cinematic—but it is richly designed and comfortable, offers tasty snacks, and has cheerful bartenders. Happy Hour: 4–7 pm daily (closed Sun), $5 wells, $6 mimosas, $8 Rainiers, sparkling makgeolli, and White Claw boilermakers; $5 small plates, $7.50 rice bowls.
Fort St. George
Another great bar nearby is Fort St. George (601 S King St, Suite 202), which has been around for ages and has, in my not humble opinion, the best regulars in this city (second-best are the regulars at the Quarter Lounge, which, regrettably, is not near a Link station). Happy Hour: 3–6 pm and 10–11:30 pm, Mon–Thurs, $1 off house sake, wine by the glass, and bottled beer, $2–$5 appetizers.
PIONEER SQUARE STATION
McCoy's Firehouse Bar & Grill
This fine bar (173 Washington St), which opens at 8 am on weekdays, has firefighter apparel on the brick walls that face the bar. There are also firefighter helmets hanging on the arch above a high-tech jukebox. And the wall by the restrooms is plastered with badges from fire departments around the country. Yet, I have never seen a firefighter in this bar. Maybe they're not in their uniforms when the time to save lives and houses is over and it's time to drink. Nevertheless, McCoy's has a mood that's defined by its bartenders, who are some of the best humans in this city. Happy Hour: 3–7 pm daily, 75 cents off drafts and wells.
UNIVERSITY STREET STATION
Lecosho (89 University St), which is two blocks down from the most hidden entrance of the underground section of light rail (it's on the southeast corner of Benaroya Hall), has a happy hour that in my estimation is second to none. The best inexpensive wine is served and the menu includes the superb grilled homemade sausage with lentils du puy and a soft-yolk egg. Happy Hour: 3–6 pm daily, $5 red, white, cava, and rosé by the glass, $4 drafts, $6 well highballs; discounted happy hour and late-night food menus ($3–$12 and $2–$16 respectively).
The Diller Room
Another nearby bar, the Diller Room (1224 First Ave), has lots of local history (it was once a speakeasy with a Chinese laundry as a front), and is in the shadow of Hammering Man (outside Seattle Art Museum). The wine here is drinkable, and the bartenders are friendly enough, but what really recommends this place is that it's not dominated by regulars. No one really claims it as their own. The faces in the old Diller Room are, like the new Seattle, constantly changing. Happy Hour: 2–7 pm daily, $4 drafts, $5 house red and white wine by the glass, $5 wells.
WESTLAKE CENTER STATION
I can never get enough of Oliver's Lounge (405 Olive Way). I'm deeply in love with this bar's windows. These windows are huge and have a view of Macy's (whose basement is connected with the light rail station) and the 80-foot sequoia tree that became famous for 24 hours in March 2016 when a man climbed to its top and refused to come down. History has decided to name this incident Man in Tree. Oliver's is not cheap, but it does serve free food at happy hour. But when you drink here, you are really paying for the windows—for the excellent people-watching they provide. Also, if the day is sunny and you are, like me, not one who enjoys drinking outside, and yet at the same time you don't want to be denied the reptilian pleasures of sunlit flesh, Oliver's is the place to be. Thanks to those marvelous windows, you are at once inside and in the sunlight. Happy Hour: 4:30–6 pm Mon–Sat, with complimentary appetizers (special late-night menu available 10–11 pm).
CAPITOL HILL STATION
It can be argued with some confidence that the most urban intersection in Seattle is Broadway and East John Street, particularly at rush hour, when big-city crowds flow up the long escalators and out of Capitol Hill Station's main section. Once on the street, these crowds are at the heart of one of the densest neighborhoods on the West Coast. Across the street from the station is Nacho Borracho (209 Broadway E), whose facade is decorated with neon advertisements for Mexican beers. Once inside, you are greeted by festoons of colorful lights and banners. Behind the bar are machines that turn slushy, luridly lit booze. For a long time, those slushy machines have contained an avocado margarita that cannot be beat. Also, some of the best bartenders in the city work here. Each has excellent taste in music. Happy Hour: 3–6 pm Mon–Fri, midnight–2 am daily, $3 wells, $5 tequila with a sangrita back, $6 El Diablo on tap, $6 frozen pink guava Moscow mule, $8 giant nachos, $5 Sonoran dog, free chips and salsa, $1 flautas, 75 cent wings.
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON STATION
College Inn Pub
The best-designed station on the line (so far) is the University of Washington Station, and yet this is also the station farthest from any bars. However, if you are willing to ride to the station and then walk or bike the Burke-Gilman Trail (made exclusively for bikes and pedestrians), you can get to the College Inn Pub (4006 University Way NE) after about a 15-minute walk (or a five-minute bike ride). In 2021, the U District Station will open, which will be much closer to the College Inn. But for now: You walk/ride from UW Station, you open the pub's wooden door, you walk down its wooden steps, and you enter a dimly lit underworld of wooden tables, benches, and booths. I have yet to meet a bartender employed by this establishment with a soul not made of gold. This den of students and professors is always darkish and dusty, like an old library or a neglected set piece for a play set in medieval times. Happy Hour: 3–6 pm Mon–Fri, all day Sun, $1 off drafts, $5 wells, free pool; late night whiskey happy hour 10 pm–close Mon–Thurs, 8 pm–close Sat.