When I suggested to the Serb that we go to Black Tap, she pulled a face and said she didn’t want to go see some German heavy metal rock band. By the time I had explained Black Tap was actually a burger bar out of New York, she was already in the car – makeup on and engine running. She loves burgers.
A word of warning – Black Tap doesn’t take any reservations, so there’s a risk to jumping in the car on a weekend night without the security of a confirmed booking. Such peril doesn’t deter me – even as I get older; I remain carefree, reckless and willing to take chances. That’s just how I am, always flirting with danger.
We walked into a busy, noisy and energetic restaurant with neon signs, faux strip lighting, polished concrete flooring and subway tiling. Add some R&B and Jay-Z, and you have a uber urban space that screams New York, New York. The place was busy, but luckily, there was a table available almost immediately. I whispered “See, fortune favours the brave,” to the Serb as we were led to our table. I could tell she was impressed with my cavalier attitude.
Black Tap is right next to Il Borro, at the turtle sanctuary, Jumeirah Al Naseem hotel. It’s difficult to illustrate the contrast between the elegant, posh Il Burro and the rambunctious Black Tap. The only way I can explain it is, if a waiter from Black Tap fell in love with a waitress from Il Burro, it would be like Jack and Rose from the Titanic movie. There is no other way to explain it.
Black Tap clearly see themselves as burger specialists – they serve fourteen types of burgers, but also stray into tacos, wings, salads and sides. The prices are punchy – the Greg Norman burger will set you back 120 dhs, or 32 US$. (The same burger in Black Tap New York is 19 US$)
The Serb was going to order the burger salad but when she learned there was no bread in the salad, she changed her mind and went for the All-American burger instead. I wanted to try something different, so I ordered the crispy Korean BBQ chicken burger.
Our waiter was engaging and very personable. He knew his way round the menu and put his hand on my shoulder in a congratulatory fashion for my excellent food choosing skills. I felt validated and sat back with a proud certificate smile on my face.
Black Tap doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it’s not. Black Tap serves burgers, beer and loud music. It is New Americana – a little hipster, a little Brooklyn and a little nostalgia.
The service was friendly, youthful, energetic and a touch chaotic. The staff all wear jeans and backward caps, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, in their spare time, they perform in a K-pop dance troupe and have dance offs on the terrace.
The ambiance was buzzing – business colleagues enjoying a drink, families celebrating birthdays, teenagers meeting friends and couples on dates – Black Tap have found that popularity spark that every restaurant searches for. It is a momentum, a wave of recommendations and community conversation that creates a self-perpetuating hype train. Black Tap need to ride it for as long as it lasts.
The food arrived quite quickly despite the kitchen being busy. The burgers certainly weren’t the worst we’ve ever had, but seeing as Black Tap sell themselves a craft burger specialist, I think I expected something more from their hero dishes. I was left feeling a little underwhelmed – the portions were quite modest, and the signature fries tasted and looked like they were from a bag out of the freezer.
The Serb’s All-American burger was the most basic model you could order – beef patty, cheese, and a bun. The beef was under seasoned and a little on the small size for the 65 dhs price tag. As a burger goes, it was good but average. In my opinion, you could get the same quality at GBK or Shake Shack.
My crispy chicken was unfortunately left in the fryer for far too long. It was the wrong side of brown, and therefore the chicken itself was overcooked and dry.
Their monster shakes are genius. Not gastronomically speaking, but from a marketing standpoint, they are worth their weight in gold. The shakes are effectively their marketing department. Put the shake station by the front door, so everyone sees them when they enter, then make them outrageous, flamboyant and gluttonous. Let people share pictures of them, and you can cancel the radio spots and Time Out adverts. Like I said, genius.
We ordered the Brooklyn Blackout – a ridiculous chocolate shake with brownies, chocolate chips, and four cans of whipped cream. As I picked up my spoon and started to work my way through the shake, my phone rang. It was my life insurance provider, telling me they were raising my policy premiums.
When you hang your hat on being a burger bar, but your milkshakes get all the attention, then perhaps that is saying something about your burgers. However, Black Tap’s success is the sum of all its parts. Despite the food being average, Black Tap offers a buzzy licensed bar environment, urban hipster décor, and engaging service. Combine this with the sugar high of the shakes, and you’ve got yourself a decent casual dining experience.
Just be careful though – those shakes are upwards of 1600 calories each and the come down is brutal.
Black Tap Craft Burgers
Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel
Dinner for two – 260 dhs