From pop singer The Weeknd to actress Katie Holmes, celebrities in New York City have been flocking to Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer for towering decadent milkshakes and classic burgers.
Speaking to the MICHELIN Guide Digital in Singapore, Black Tap owner Chris Barish, 44, excitedly rattles off a list of A-listers who have visited his casual American restaurants, including model Claudia Schiffer and actresses Zendaya and Millie Bobby Brown.
Much to the delight of his teenage daughter, his restaurants have enabled her to meet her favorite stars. "Katie Holmes has brought her daughter, Suri, for milkshakes," he says. "Zendaya visited us with her friends, which got my daughter excited, and so did Millie, who had a Brooklyn Blackout CrazyShake.”
Now, a touch of Big Apple glamour has landed in Singapore with the opening of the institution’s first outpost in Asia.
When asked how these Instagram sensations came about, Barish says that CrazyShakes started innocuously when his staff was “playing around” by adding cotton candy on top of milkshakes. Photos were posted on social media, word started spreading and the milkshakes started getting more and more outrageous.
Take the Sweet N’ Salty Shake for example—the vanilla and peanut butter milkshake is topped with a dollop of whipped cream, embellished with salty pretzel sticks, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&Ms and chocolates, and drizzled with chocolate and caramel sauce. All of the zany beverages are shaken and decorated in an open-concept milkshake bar in the restaurant.
The restaurant, which is named after the black handles that are commonly found in craft beer bars, started out as a 15-seat burger joint in New York’s SoHo neighborhood in 2015. It has since expanded to an empire of 11 restaurants in cities including Las Vegas, Abu Dhabi and Geneva.
At Black Tap’s Asian debut in Singapore, Barish, who is partnering with the Las Vegas Sands Group, is keen to tap into Singapore’s international clientele. “There is much more excitement in creating an international brand than opening around New York,” he says. “Opening restaurants also gives me an opportunity to travel to places that I want to visit.”
He “table touches” regularly—interacting with diners whenever he checks in on Black Tap outlets in different countries every couple of months. Through these sessions, he notices that locals, tourists and expats alike visit his restaurant in each city.
“I find it more rewarding to bring a part of cool downtown New York City around the world,” he says. “Meeting people of different nationalities, from London to Ohio, keeps me going.”
With 28 years of hospitality experience, Barish (left) says: “It starts with the good quality of food, but these days, design is so important in creating a fun dining atmosphere if you want people to return. The restaurant needs to look, feel and sound good.”
Having started in nightclubs in New York and Las Vegas, he draws from his nightlife experiences in running restaurants: “They are both people-centric businesses and have to put on a show with the music, staff uniform, and the presentation of food and drinks. With restaurants, you are just catering to a wider audience.”
Barish hopes to expand Black Tap to other cities in Asia such as Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Some of Black Tap’s crowd favorites are the special dishes and drinks that commemorate holiday seasons and special events.
A banana split milkshake is also in the works. Barish says that has been requested by his long-time friend, movie star Sylvester Stallone. “Who can say no to Rocky?”