Meatpacking District, NYC — As a general rule I try not to be too much of a food snob, but I defend that statement with the explanation that if and when I come off as won, it's because of my deep-seeded love and respect for food. And more and more lately, I have been concerned with the "Instagram-ification" of food culture, where many supposed fans of culinary delights are more interested in taking pictures of their food — and sharing it on social media — than actually eating it or even commenting on whether it is good or not.
It is one of the main reasons why I returned to KAC Food (picking up from the dormant PHUDE-NYC iteration) because I felt a need to re-introduce people to the notion that food is, most importantly, meant to be eaten, and not just gawked at.
So in the era first brought on by the cronut (which on principle alone I have yet to indulge in) a decade ago, we now have long lines of people waiting to — not eat, but — take mobile device snapshots of ramen burgers, rainbow bagels, sushi burritos, and cotton candy milkshakes.
The popular name-known place that is serving those cotton candy shakes is called Black Tap, and and a recent stroll from the West Village found me walking past its newest outpost on West 14th Street in the Meatpacking District. I believe they had just opened, or they were just newly opened, since I saw no line like the ones I've seen on Google for their original location. Maybe the foodies have moved on to the next big thing. I was curious enough to walk in to possibly, finally (and peacefully), discern for myself what all the hoopla was about.
It wasn't even near 12 noon yet, so the idea of a milkshake, festooned with any number of options of sweets, candies, and the like, didn't seem like the most appealing option for first meal of the day. So I then decided to employ my usual protocol when try a restaurant for the first time — order the burger.
Black Tap promotes its "craft burgers", so if that's what they're principally about, then it would be more than fair to sample one of their feature items. Of the many variations, including patties made of or with chorizo, turkey, falafel, lamb, bison, and wagyu, I decided the steak au poivre burger, made with prime steak and topped with blue cheese and served with a green peppercorn sauce, would give me the best sense both of how their kitchen respects the beef, and of any general signature finesse with which they execute their dishes.
My reaction after letting my first bite impress upon my teeth and palate was of gratitude — Black Tap doesn't treat this burger like an afterthought. The green peppercorn sauce thoroughly impressed, immediately becoming my dipping choice for the pleasing steak fries that joined the plate.
Wanting to check the flavor on just the ground steak patty, done to an accomplished medium rare, I just cut out a piece of the burger to taste it unadulterated by its accoutrements. The great sear on the top and bottom edges of the burger had a very nice, slightly charred caramelization, adding a grounding layer of salty, sweet, and smoke to the seared-in clear juices and earthy beef flavor. The green peppercorn sauce elevated with it's slight "florality" and heat, and the melty blue cheese bolstered with a bit of extra salt while helping all the flavors mix amicably and coat the inside of the mouth for an enjoyable chew and swallow.
Of course, By the time I was halfway through the burger, their were small pockets of people who had ordered their extravagantly photogenic shakes and, admittedly, photogenic they truly are.
I can't imagine anyone even my size finishing one of these, and no one having one during my visit seemed to get anywhere close to getting a whole one down, even with help. And as unique the are (or at least first were), your Instagram picture of one will be only one in a hundred thousand, the purpose of pure folly being understood.
But if you do find yourself at a Black Tap (Craft Burgers & Beer) location, the more impressively special menu option might indeed be one of their accomplished, as they are not just meant to be gawked at frivolously, they're meant to be eaten and enjoyed by the most serious of diner and burger-lover
BLACK TAP | 248 W 14th St, New York, NY 10011 | (212) 675-7236 | blacktapnyc.com