Alternate title: that time we unknowingly wore our invisibility suits for an evening out, and it affected our ability to obtain more of the food and drinks we were super impressed with.

So already you see where this is going. *sigh*

I will fully admit to stalking The Battleground on social media for months now. I’ve been watching the renovations, containing my drool over the photos of delicious looking food, and making mental notes about perfect weather days for visiting the amazing looking patio area. I was intrigued by the eclectic style and the location somewhat off the beaten path in Kent – not in the renovated downtown or super close to campus, but kind of plunked down in a residential neighborhood.

They opened just before the pandemic – at the beginning of 2020, just a few short months before restaurants in our area were shuttered to slow the spread of the virus – and I know faced hard times in the months that followed, like so many other restaurants around the country and the world. They were always open about mistakes made, and the tough new reality they were attempting to survive in.

Which is why it’s so hard to write this review. Because I truly went into this experience wanting so badly to like them. Honestly, I already did like them, just based on what I’d seen on social media already. And to be clear, we did like so many things about The Battleground. But sometimes it can be one big thing that just makes you question whether or not you will ever return.

Ok, let’s get to it.

Thanks to the slightly cool and overcast June evening, we were able to get a seat on the back patio. (FYI, they have two patios – one just outside the door to the restaurant, and a much lager one in the “backyard” area) That also makes us two for two on new places and patio seating, so kind of not sure what’s going on with the universe but clearly we are on borrowed time and should probably be thinking about playing the lottery before this streak of luck runs out.

After looking through the menu Ted made the observation that the food definitely didn’t seem like what you find on the menu at “regular” Mexican restaurants … and also not quite like the new batch of “mix and match your own specialty tacos” brand of restaurants that seems to have been popping up a lot recently. So it’s not Tres Portillas, but it’s also not Crave Cantina or Bomba either.

It also means if you want chips and salsa with your meal, you’re going to pay for them. No one is showing up at your table with never-ending bowls of either one before you even place your order.

Much to Shane’s “I’m so hungry I’m ready to eat one of my own appendages” chagrin, or course.

Our server seemed super knowledgeable about the menu. Because of course we asked questions. You would expect nothing less, I know. We asked questions about the different types of tacos, and also what the heck is a tamale anyway? (tortillas made out of the outside of the corn husk, just FYI) She was also super patient with us as we ordered pretty much everything on the “taco” side of the menu, and managed to upsell Ted into trying the street corn, because she made it sound really delicious.

Again, file all of this under “when it seems too good to be true, it probably it.”

Carry on.

We started out with the house margaritas, which FYI they don’t offer in pitchers. Silly us for asking.

Summer in a glass

So yeah, those certainly don’t suck. Shane joked that his glass seemed to have a hole in the bottom, because he was finished with his in like three sips, while Ted and I still had half a glass each left. Seems if you looked up “moderation” in the dictionary … well, you definitely wouldn’t find a picture of Shane there, let’s just say that much.

We also got the regular salsa with chips, as well as the guacamole with spicy pineapple. Because spicy pineapple just makes anything sound a helluva lot more interesting, am I right?

I’ve never tried guac with nuts or radishes as garnish but I’m certainly more open to it now. Just saying.

About this point we were beginning to think we had struck gold with The Battleground, because we honestly hadn’t found anything we could complain about in the least. Good patio + delicious drinks + flavorful salsa and delicious guac that we could honestly eat about a vat of = on our way to awesomeness.

And our meals only continued along that same path. To say we were very happy with everything we consumed at The Battleground would be like saying fish like water.

Ted decided to try one of the tamales – the tamale de mole (chicken and mole sauce). He also got the street corn on the cob, and two tacos – the Baja fish (beer battered cod) and the Asada (grilled skirt steak).

He said the tamale was “interesting.” When he first tasted it he wasn’t expecting it to be so sweet – like he probably could’ve saved it and called it dessert kind of sweetness level. But at least it was a good sweet. Not like the time Shane expected something to be sweet that wasn’t.

Ah, Gus’s Chalet. It’s been a hot minute since we mentioned you, no? R.I.P.

He was also a big fan of the corn. He said that while there was “a lot going on there,” it was a delicious blend of spicy and sweet and he was definitely glad to have been impulsively talked into ordering it by our server.

Well deserved close up

Shane got three tacos – the Pollo Tinga (slow cooked chicken), the Al Pastor (pork) and the Baja fish. He immediately had fish envy because Ted’s piece of cod was bigger than his.

There’s a sentence I truly never imagined myself typing. I’m also using full restraint to not make jokes about cod pieces right now, so you’re welcome for that.

He liked them all, but said the fish was the best. Even if it was smaller than Ted’s. And Ted agreed that out of all of his tacos the fish was the best. The Asada was a close second, but the baja fish was the overall winner.

I got the Pollo Tinga, the Barbacoa (slow braised beef), and the Al Pastor.

I liked the Al Pastor the best. I thought the chicken was just OK, and the barbacoa had no flavor. Based on the guy’s reactions it seems like I’ll be trying the baja fish next time, though.

OK, so we’ve covered all of the GOOD things about The Battleground, let’s now touch on the reason we will probably not be likely to return.

The service.

It’s disappointing to have to say that, because if you’ve read this far you know we had high hopes at the start of this meal just with how knowledgeable our server was about all of the menu items, and how easy going she was to answer questions. I mean, she upsold Ted on a ear of corn, of all things. That’s like upselling someone on nightstands when they really just intended to get the bed frame.

We also received our first round of drinks and our actual meals rather quickly. I mean, we were ready to order when the server came back to check on us the first time after answering our questions, so clearly we weren’t messing around. Shane’s arms were depending on it.

But if I had to pinpoint the moment when the wheels fell off, it would probably be about the time that our server was also given a large party of like 16 people on the patio nearby. Because while I can’t say we never actually saw her again, I will say that the only times we did see her was when she was walking past our table to get to theirs.

We had just put our orders in for our second round of drinks – or, rather, the guys put their orders in, because as we’ve already discussed Shane’s faulty glass emptied at an unnatural pace, and Ted figured he would be catching up just behind him. I stupidly passed because I still had about a half a glass left so I figured I would just catch the next round. You can probably guess how that worked out for me, right?

Because we had nearly finished our meals by the time someone (the owner, maybe?) finally penetrated the cloak of invisibility surrounding our table and asked if everything was OK, at which time we mentioned the round of drinks that seemed to have gotten lost somewhere, plus the fact that now we needed to add one more to the original two ordered. Which you would think would’ve caused a lightbulb of realization regarding the extra cash this table would’ve spent on alcohol alone if not left unchecked, no?

Yeah, no. Because we had finished those drinks by the time the server reappeared, and at that point basically just asked us if we were ready to leave. And if you’ve followed this blog long enough, you’ll know that’s a giant pet peeve of ours. Like hey, people paying to eat and drink here, don’t you think you’ve spent enough money already? Please go somewhere else if you which to have a third round of drinks and some dessert. Sounds like a solid business practice.

Little did we know that we probably could’ve gone somewhere else, befriended a bartender, probably become friendly enough that they allowed us to go behind the bar and make our own drinks, consume said drinks, and drive back to reclaim our table by the time we actually saw those completed checks with our credit cards back in our hands again. It’s fun when you watch the server walk away with your credit card, then the next time she comes back outside she heads over to that big group of 16 on the other side of the patio with a tray of food to be delivered … so you assume she’ll have to go back into the restaurant after that to get your cards, right? I mean, annoying, but we can sit there and eat the remaining ice in the glasses of our former alcoholic beverages, that’s cool. Whatever.

But then after she delivers said food around the table and starts to walk back toward the restaurant she accidentally makes eye contact with me … and apparently at that moment remembered that she had all of our finalized slips with cards IN HER APRON. So like, we literally could’ve left 10 minutes sooner, had she just set down the food trays, walked over to our table and simply dropped the slips and our cards off with a “thanks much, have a good night,” and let us be on our way. But no, we were held hostage while she dealt with the party that had already monopolized her attention for the majority of our visit. OK.

So that’s the story of the new place in Kent with the really cool patio, awesome food and drinks, and amazing backstory – who I was so rooting for throughout the entirety of the pandemic … that we will likely never visit again. At least not until we know these invisibility shields we somehow activated have been safely stowed away. Or no one in the greater Kent area is planning a party at this same location. Because that seems doable.