Burger purists are likely to chide me for having an unorthodox method in consuming a burger—by deconstructing the stack consisting of buns, meat, and vegetables—and devouring them separately. There's a sense of gratification in tasting the individual layers without making a sloppy mess. Anyone with me on this? However, I must confess, there is something indescribably satisfying about eating an entire burger all built up too—just ask the folks at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer.
Recently opened at Marina Bay Sands, the award-winning New York craft burger establishment is renowned for its juicy (and meticulously assembled) burger creations and CrazyShake milkshakes. The latter gained prominence in the food community for its Instagrammable construction of ingredients and colours. Besides providing a visual feast, the decadent CrazyShakes will satisfy sweet tooths and dessert lovers with its mean concoction of confections in various flavours like Cake Shake and Bam Bam fruity pebbles mix.
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But the hero dish of Black Tap is definitely its burgers. In addition to the prized Greg Norman (which won the People's Choice Award at the New York City Wine and Food Festival's Burger Bash for three consecutive years since 2015)—made with wagyu beef, house buttermilk-dill sauce, blue cheese and arugula—their mouth-watering creations include the all-American burger (which is both juicy and crispy with strips of bacon) and Baja Chicken Sandwich (surprisingly tender and beautifully battered). Alternatively, expose your taste buds to the Singapore-exclusive Cantonese BBQ Burger (great option if you love umami flavours) and IPA Battered Hoki Sandwich (who knew that beer and fish were such great bedfellows?).
Esquire Singapore sat down with Chris Barish, owner of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, to discuss why he decided to open Black Tap in Singapore and, crucially, what is the proper sequence of constructing a burger stack.
ESQ: Firstly, congratulations on the opening of Black Tap Singapore! What is your favourite burger on the restaurant's menu and how do you pair a particular beer or CrazyShake to it?
CHRIS BARISH: Thank you! We’re thrilled to be in Singapore. My favourite burger is the All American—it’s the classic American burger, with American cheese and our signature special sauce. It’s what we recommend you order if you’ve never been to Black Tap.
For a beer pairing, we’re really loving a local Singapore beer we have on the menu here, the Archipelago Tropical Pale Ale. Any CrazyShake will pair well with it, but I personally love the Sweet ‘N Salty peanut butter shake with M&Ms, pretzels and peanut butter cups.
ESQ: How does Black Tap stand out from its rivals in terms of taste and concept?
CHRIS BARISH: Tastewise, we use the highest quality ingredients, including a custom beef blend from the US, regional produce, and chef-inspired, house-made sauces.
Black Tap as a concept is all about a fun experience. We have great music—90s hip-hop and 80s pop—which sets the tone. Our staff are always having a great time, and love sharing our food and drinks with guests. We put a lot of thought and energy into our design as well. It brings our downtown New York SoHo vibes to life with a black and white colour palette, pops of neon, and our signature street art. Black Tap Singapore’s two-story mural was created by a local street artist Has.J. It’s incredible.
ESQ: Why the switch from being a nightclub veteran to owning a food business and how did it happen?
CHRIS BARISH: It was a natural evolution. I learned a lot during my nightclub days about creating an experience, which I’ve brought to Black Tap, and I’ve always been incredibly passionate about food since I was a kid growing up in New York.
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ESQ: What is your strategy in building Black Tap as a brand?
CHRIS BARISH: Staying true to ourselves. We started as a 15-seat counter seat burger joint, with downtown vibes, great music, and simple but quality food. While we’ve grown to 10 restaurants across the world, every Black Tap still feels like it did when we opened three years ago. We’ve gotten bigger, added some cool design elements like our signature shake bar, and new menu items, but we’re still Black Tap.
ESQ: How do you hone your business acumen and what aspect of the business motivates you?
CHRIS BARISH: We’re in the restaurant business, so I’m always paying attention to new concepts and what’s happening in the industry. We’re constantly trying to evolve in response to our customers’ needs.
What pushes me to challenge myself is to always strive for the best product, design, music—everything that goes into making the Black Tap experience successful. We’re in the people business and seeing people happy keeps me going.
ESQ: Black Tap’s burgers are definitely one of the best I’ve tasted in years. What is the one item on the menu that can best represent Black Tap and will draw people to the restaurant?
CHRIS BARISH: Definitely the All American burger. As I mentioned before, it’s our classic burger and the one everyone should try if they are first-timers at the restaurant. Our Cotton Candy shake has been super popular since opening and it’s one of our originals. People’s eyes light up when it’s brought to the table. It’s sweet and over-the-top. You’ll love it!
ESQ: What do you think is the correct stacking order for the burger? There’s a controversy of cheese either being on-top or below the patty. What are your thoughts about it?
CHRIS BARISH: We definitely go cheese on top of the patty. We put the cheese on while the burger is still cooking and do a very quick steam on the cheese so it melts perfectly. There’s no other way for us.
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ESQ: Speaking of Black Tap’s award-winning Spicy Korean BBQ chicken wings. Do you think sides are as important as the mains and why?
CHRIS BARISH: Definitely! Our sides and snacks add to the many options we have, offering something for everyone. Our Crispy Brussels Sprouts are a customer favourite in the US, and the Queso & Chips and Fried Mozz are great for sharing and to kick off your meal.
ESQ: How did the expansion to Singapore come about and why Singapore?
CHRIS BARISH: We have a great partnership with Sands and opened at The Venetian Las Vegas last December. The team is fantastic and invited us to come to Marina Bay Sands, and we’re thrilled to be here in Singapore for our first restaurant in Asia. When we visited, we fell in love with the vibrancy of the city and the food culture. We knew it would be a great fit for Black Tap.
ESQ: Tell us more about the Cantonese Burger. Will the chefs explore localised flavoured burgers and shakes?
CHRIS BARISH: The Cantonese Burger is a prime burger with swiss cheese, bacon, Cantonese mayo with black bean and garlic, sambal bbq sauce, spicy pickles, and it’s served with sweet potato fries.
It is exclusive to Singapore, and everyone loves it so much, there’s been some talk of having it pop up on menus elsewhere. We’re actually working on a local shake as we speak, and playing with ingredients like pandan and gula melaka. We’ll have other localised flavours through our many limited time specials for national holidays and other cultural moments.
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ESQ: I love the sleek décor of Black Tap Singapore and its contemporary vibe. Booth seats are definitely a signature at American diners. Tell us more about having this particular design layout and its accompanying monochromatic colour scheme.
CHRIS BARISH: Black Tap’s design is inspired by classic New York city luncheonettes with Downtown vibes. Design elements include blonde wood, subway tile, and neon with a black and white palette and references to 80s and 90s New York, hip-hop, and pop art. We have our signature CrazyShake bar that we launched in New York, and it’s the first time we’ve ever had atrium seating, bringing the restaurant out into Marina Bay Sands and creating a unique environment.
ESQ: How do you feel about Singapore’s culinary scene compared to America?
CHRIS BARISH: We see a lot of similarities—both are diverse and dynamic, and especially in cities like New York, both places have incredible melting pots of cultures. A difference is the type of comfort food. Burgers are a comfort food in America, so we’re bringing that idea of American comfort food and nostalgia to Singapore.
ESQ: Black Tap will be opening at Disneyland. What do you consider as a good location for Black Tap to be at?
CHRIS BARISH: We look for iconic locations around the world with an international and diverse customer base—Black Tap has customers of all ages, from 1 to 100, and from all over the world.
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ESQ: Ingredients varies in different countries. How do you ensure that the quality of the menu remains similar to the American flagships?
CHRIS BARISH: We’ve done extensive research on sourcing the best quality ingredients here in Singapore and have found great partners.
ESQ: What are the future plans for Black Tap? Will we see seasonal, limited edition burgers and crazy shakes?
CHRIS BARISH: Absolutely! We love offering our seasonal and special burgers and shakes and will offer specials that are available worldwide, as well as specials unique to Singapore. Stay tuned for the first one!
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer is located at L1-80, Bay Level of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands (South Promenade), Singapore 018956. For more information, contact the Black Tap crew via phone at 6688 9957 or email. All images courtesy of Black Tap Craft Burger & Beer.