A Date Night Along the Light Rail
Date night has never been so light 🚆
August 18, 2022
📸: Meg van Huygen | Hoa Hong
If you haven’t taken advantage of the new extended Link route—the Northgate, Roosevelt, and University District stations debuted last October—you’re missing out on one of the quickest and cheapest ways to get around town. (The Link’s useful for sooooo much more than just a ride to Sea-Tac.)
Here’s a handful of fun dates to do in a few different neighborhoods, all of which are helpfully strung together by the Link.
Northgate Station ⛸️
We’ll begin at Northgate Station, the current final stop on the light rail if you’re traveling north. Around here you’ve got the Northgate Mall, sure, but you’ve also got a freaking community ice rink. Let’s go there. But first, a little drink 🍹
Grab a casual dinner 🍕
Known to regulars as The Shed, the Watershed Pub is what seems to be an unassuming pizza-n-sports bar with a roomy patio. But it has really solid pizza, creative-casual entrees, a huge tap list, and honestly gorgeous craft cocktails and mocktails. The menu’s a balance of normal fare and things that are a touch unusual: recent highlights include a spinach salad served with white beans, pickled carrots, and barbecued brisket on top, and an “apricot gabagool” sandwich with capicola and jalapeño apricot salsa.
As for cocktails, the Crème Saver Colada with rum, lime, strawberry simple syrup, Giffard Vanille de Madagascar, and coconut cream is a standout. If you’re looking for more of a faux-tail, try an Awesome Blossom with Lyre’s non-alcoholic Italian spritz, lemon, grapefruit, and soda water.
The Watershed’s menu changes often, so if you don’t see these items, don’t worry: there’s something equally delicious waiting for you.
📍 Watershed Pub & Kitchen: 10104 3rd Ave NE
The Shed is open every day, until midnight on weekends and until 11 pm on weeknights.
There’s trivia on Tuesdays and occasional live music on Saturdays. Sometimes they make special cocktail/mocktail lists for good causes, e.g., Pink Drink Week, which benefits North Helpline. The pub’s name, by the way, is a nod toward nearby Thornton Creek, whose 12-mile watershed is the largest in Seattle proper.
Puck on the first date 🏒
If you missed it, they tore down (part of) Northgate Mall and put up a hockey rink for our new NHL team. The Seattle Kraken play their games in Climate Pledge Arena in Lower Queen Anne, but they practice at Kraken Community Iceplex in Northgate, which is open to the public.
Since it opened in September 2021, the rink has hosted themed public skating nights (this August: Country Music Skate Night!), kids’ events, broomball and curling games, adult hockey leagues, skating and hockey lessons, and lots more frozen fun. There’s also a restaurant and health clinic inside the building. No matter what’s happening on any given day at the KCI, it’s a free, always interesting way to cool off on a hot day.
📍 Kraken Community Iceplex: 10601 5th Ave NE
You took the light rail to get here, but parking is everywhere, in all directions, same as when the whole thing was Northgate Mall. There are a few chain restaurants around the corner to the north, as well as a Starbucks. The rink is open 6 am to 11 pm every day. Lessons and skate nights come with a fee, but it’s always totally free to sit in the stands and watch whatever’s going on.
University District Station 📚
Our second date night next to a light rail station takes place around the U District Station, arguably the most beautiful station in Seattle. The station’s sculptures, created by Lead Pencil Studio, make you feel like you’re hanging out in an underground city.
Say hey to Seattle’s friendliest ghosts 👻
You know that big beautiful wooden school that takes up an entire city block at 50th and the Ave? It’s not a school anymore! It’s a community center that’s chock full of arts events, and most of them are pay-what-you-can, from embroidery workshops to dance classes, from live bands to comedy improv nights.
Some quick Seattle history: This three-floor Mission Revival masterpiece was completed in 1903 as University Heights Elementary School and was designed by James Stephen, upon whose model plan many other early 20th-century Seattle schools were based. (The Summit School on Capitol Hill, now called the Northwest School, and the old John Hay School at 4th North and Boston on Queen Anne Hill are two examples.)
U Heights is open to looky-loos if you don’t feel like attending an event and just feel like exploring the wide wooden hallways—where you’ll find lots of art, a few take-a-book/leave-a-book shelves, and a very old spinet piano on the main floor that’s open to (respectful) players. The building also has a rep as one of Seattle’s most haunted places, so keep an ear out for the laughter of ghost children. The best entrance is on the University Way side, through the 30-year-old community garden.
📍 University Heights Center: 5031 University Way NE
The U Heights building opens at 8 am every day and closes at 10 pm during the week, 4 pm on Saturday, and 6 pm on Sunday. There’s a daycare on the basement floor, so maybe don’t go exploring down there, at least not during the day. The auditorium on the top floor usually has something cool happening in it, so that’s a good destination. Just don’t miss all the artwork along the way!
Enjoy the hike-free view ⛰️
On the top floor of the Graduate Hotel, across the street from the Neptune Theater, is the grand Mountaineering Club and its sweeping, all-surrounding vista of Seattle. Not affiliated with The Mountaineers alpine club, this is a camping-themed (or perhaps glamping-themed, since it’s pretty upscale!) bar and restaurant with craft cocktails and a focus on Pacific Northwestern ingredients, particularly local seafood. All of which is delicious and exquisite and great, but the point here is the 360-degree view.
The secret has been out on this place, at least on weekends, so you’ll definitely want a reservation, but it’s no hassle and well worth it. Look, to be clear, it’s not just a run-off-the-mill rooftop deck—the deck wraps around the entire building, so the hotel wears it like a crown. Like, sure, mountain-climbing, it’s a cute theme, but once you get up there and behold this view, you’ll understand why this bar-resto is so perfectly named.
📍 The Mountaineering Club: 4507 Brooklyn Ave NE
To access The Mountaineering Club, you must enter the building through the lobby of the Graduate Hote. Have a reservation. This is mostly because of the unusual layout of the restaurant. As long as it’s not last-minute on a weekend, reservations are super easy to book on Resy. Once you arrive, check in with the desk that’s perpendicular to the elevators, and a doorman will escort you to the 16th floor. Fancy!
Our last date night itinerary takes place around Othello Station, which drops you off near Rainier Valley and South Beacon Hill. The large Othello Playground is blocks away, as are the cute stops below.
Get your feet wet 🦶💦
The word spraypark at the John C. Little Park & Spraypark may give you a question mark, but as it turns out, it’s one of those parks with sprinklers coming out of the ground. Just the thing on a warm night! If walking around outside with no shoes on isn’t your thing, the park is still a lovely green place for a stroll, featuring tree-lined footpaths and picnic areas. Don’t miss the glorious cornfield in the community garden next door, which might seem private but is a part of the public park.
📍 John C. Little Park and Spraypark: 6961 37th Ave S
The park is located next to the New Holly housing development, and it’s open daily from 6 am to 10 pm. The sprinklers are only on in the summer, of course. Its namesake was a member of the Board of Park Commissioners and left a legacy of community programs and services that he helped develop. John C. Little focused on creating organizations to assist disadvantaged youth and low-income families, such as the Central Area Youth Association and a 4-H program, usually available exclusively to rural students, that was designed for urban Seattle kids.
Snack on fake cheese and real wings 🐔
Bang Bang Kitchen isn’t strictly a vegan restaurant, but local vegans know it as the place where the beloved tofu-based “Shawn’s Vegan Mac” is still available, ever since Cafe Pettirosso closed earlier in the year. (Bang Bang Cafe, the restaurant’s brunchy Belltown outpost, serves it as well but is temporarily closed.) Othello’s BBK has also acquired a rep for its very non-vegan fried chicken wings in honey-brown butter sauce, along with a Hatch chile-infused menu of New Mexican faves and a creative cocktail list. The summery spice profile extends to the drinks, as in the Rico Suave—rum, fresh pineapple, lime, guajillo chile syrup, and coconut cream—and the non-alc pear-rosemary shrub soda.
📍 Bang Bang Kitchen: 4219 S. Othello St.
Bang Bang’s open every day from 4 pm to 10 pm. A fun fact: It’s no big surprise that they serve Pettirosso’s famous vegan mac here. The restaurant is owned by the same duo, sisters Yuki and Miki Sodos, who hail from Albuquerque and employ Southwestern hometown influences in both the menu and aesthetic.
Don’t Forget 🥖
If you don’t want to miss a second of this precious weather, or you’re just on a budget, Le’s Deli and Bakery is steps from the Othello stop and does a variety of banh mis in the 8-to-12-dollar range. Need help choosing? ST food critic Tan Vinh included Le’s catfish po’boy in one of his sandwich roundups last year. He praised its “salty, craggy nuggets of opaque fillet cut with pickles and banana peppers,” which are served on a crackly roll with mayo AND butter. Wrapped in deli paper, these things are designed for walking and talking. Grab a pair and careen back out into the sunshine.
The daughter of a King County Metro driver and a Space Needle waitress. Meg was born on the Hill, grew up on Queen Anne, went to school in the CD, and presently haunts the U District. Her writing has appeared in Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, Eater Seattle, Curbed Seattle, Atlas Obscura, Mental Floss, and many other publications. She sometimes backs up drag queens on the accordion and hosts drunken spelling bees.