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It is a record 87-degree day, and Chris Craft boats are cruising Lake Union. A guy throws out a fishing line from his kayak and pops a cold one. A heavyweight crew team rows by, pulling way too hard for such a hot day.

We’re at Little Water Cantina, late afternoon, the happy-hour rush still on the horizon. So it’s order, order, order before the madness begins: tacos, guacamole, empanadas and pickled veggies, and to wash it all down, margaritas and light beer.

Out front, a flirty girl collects signatures or money for a cause. No one’s got time for that now.

Guys in shorts and gals in one-strap dresses rush to the deck, laughing and slugging margaritas like it’s spring break in Cabo. Others snap iPhone pix of white boats bobbing over the blue water.

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Is there a better happy-hour view of Lake Union?

Most bars with water views don’t offer food or drink discounts at their prime real estate, relegating happy-hour revelers to the dim bar for the special $2 Rainier and discounted wings.

There’s no asterisk in the happy hour here, though. You grab a seat in one of the 16 picnic tables outside if you can find one.

The carnitas, marinated in Coca-Cola and bathed in coconut milk, were soft and juicy, served with warm tortillas made in-house. That pork appears again in a greasy version of empanadas. This is where the pickled jalapeños come in handy.

And no cheap, cloying sour mixes here. Grab a stiff $6 margarita with fresh squeezed lime while you breathe in the unobstructed water view, and listen to the megaphoned barking of the coxswain and the hum of float planes — the soundtrack of Lake Union, a prelude to summer.

Little Water Cantina, 2865 Eastlake Ave. E., offers happy hour weekday 3-6 p.m. and again Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to close in the bar and lounge. Happy-hour food (tacos, guacamole and empanadas) from $2 to $9, $6 margaritas, $2 tequila shots, 25 percent off agave spirits, $4 draft, $5 house wines and $1 off well drinks (206-397-4940 or

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or On Twitter @tanvinhseattle