Reporter Tan Vinh offers his take on a lively block of Columbia City, and gives tips on special deals if you bring in your ticket from Seattle's new light-rail line.

Who knew that a light-rail ticket could be considered currency of a different sort? Or maybe Valpak coupon is a more apt comparison.

Coffee houses, cafes and boutiques near the new Sound Transit Link light-rail stops are offering free desserts, $1 off on sandwiches and 10 percent discounts on dresses when you show your light-rail ticket in their stores. Your Orca or FlexPass would work, too.

The recession, no doubt, has hurt sales. And chambers of commerce and mom-and-pop store owners near the light-rail stations see those riders as potential customers.

I visited one neighborhood near the Columbia City light-rail station, to see what deals I could get with a train ticket. I counted at least 34 businesses offering deals such as free appetizers, ice-cream floats and $1 off on beer. Also get ready to see lots of puns on the light-rail theme (50 percent off espresso and $1 off on a Streetcar cocktail).

This Southeast Seattle neighborhood, a few blocks from the light-rail station on Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, has all the usual community amenities: bars, restaurants, boutiques, yoga studios and a book store, in addition to a community theater and a movie theater. We focus on the main drag, Rainier Avenue South, between South Ferdinand and South Edmunds streets.

1. Geraldine’s Counter, 4872 Rainier Ave. S. A local favorite for weekend brunch that now draws customers from other parts of the city. With light-rail ticket: $1 off special on Hot “Link” scramble. 206-723-2080 or www.geraldinescounter.com.

2. El Sombrero, 4868 Rainier Ave S. This Mexican restaurant now serves “Rapido Transito” sangria. I’m going to assume a translation isn’t necessary. With light-rail ticket: $3 sangria. 206-725-1418.

3. Lotus Yoga, 4860 Rainier Ave. S., Suite D. Has classes for parents and their kids. Why do I envision crying toddlers and little kids running between yoga mats? With light-rail ticket: 20 percent off on classes and yoga accessories in the boutique. 206-760-1917 or www.lotusyoga.biz.

4. La Medusa, 4857 Rainier Ave S. This “Sicilian Soul Food” restaurant is an anchor on the block. La Medusa is near Columbia City Bakery, both owned by Evan Andres. With a light-rail ticket: 10 percent off your meal. 206-723-2192 or www.lamedusarestaurant.com.

5. Retroactive Kids / Columbia City Cuts, 4859 Rainier Ave. S. Features retro and hip clothes and toys for young children, the same ones who likely do downward dog at Lotus Yoga. Don’t know what to make of the hair salon in the back of the store. With rail ticket: 10 percent off on purchase. 206-932-3154 or www.retroactivekids.com.

6. Bob’s Quality Meats, 4861 Rainier Ave. S. A city institution. Bob’s even sells goat, rabbit and buffalo meat. With ticket: 10 percent off on all sausage links. 206-725-1221.

7. Island Soul, 4869 Rainier Ave. S. This Caribbean-cuisine restaurant, which moved here last summer, just started happy hour Mondays-Fridays from 4 to 6:30 p.m. With ticket: free appetizer when you buy two entrees. 206-329-1202 or www.islandsoulrestaurant.net.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com