Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes is a new restaurant at Downtown Disney that, as the name suggests, specializes in burgers and crazy milkshakes. This dining review features dessert & food photos, our take on the ambiance, and whether it’s worth taking time from your vacation to try it.
Downtown Disney at Disneyland Resort is the first California location for Black Tap Craft Burgers, but it’s been a craze that began in New York City. After taking off there thanks to social media, Black Tap expanded to Dubia, followed by more outposts in Las Vegas, Singapore, Geneva, Switzerland, Belgium, and multiple additional locations in the Middle East and New York. This year alone, the burger-and-shake chain has roughly doubled in size.
Black Tap’s growth has been fueled by the viral success of the “freakshake,” which is what its overindulgent, toppings-heavy CrazyShake milkshakes were dubbed by New York media when they debuted. Disney fans should be fairly familiar with these Instagram-fodder milkshakes, as they’ve since spread to numerous Disney restaurants, from Beaches & Cream Soda Shop to Planet Hollywood Observatory. Essentially, social media photos of CrazyShakes got people in the door, and they then discovered Black Tap’s award-winning burgers…
There’s a lot more to the interesting and controversial backstory of Black Tap, but the ‘CliffNotes’ version for a restaurant review is that their milkshakes went viral, became a sensation of the New York social media scene, and that their burgers are highly regarded.
With that all established, let’s take a look at Disneyland Resort’s Black Tap Burgers & Shakes location, which is situated under Ballast Point in Downtown Disney. It’s likewise already a hit in California, with hype leading to long lines and a packed house, even on otherwise uncrowded days at Disneyland…
Here’s Black Tap’s interior. It feels like something out of SoHo; like it’s trying a bit too hard to convey a vaguely industrial, late 80s or early 90s vibe.
Black Tap has some pop and street art to punch things up, and you could say that the design gives it a bit of character. I think the intent here is to evoke a rough-around-the-edges vibe, something with a bit of hipness and teeth to it.
In reality, this is probably all meticulously engineered by marketing professionals and social media experts who know just what will sell among its target demographic, and serve as the best Instagram backdrops.
In that sense it reminds me a lot of places in Santa Monica and Venice that have this faux-organic “realness” to them, but are actually anything but that.
In terms of the menu, let’s start with the burgers. First up is what I ordered, the Greg Norman: “1/2 lb Wagyu Beef Burger, House Buttermilk-Dill, Blue Cheese, and Arugula served on a Martin’s Potato Roll with Lettuce, Tomato, a Pickle, and French Fries.”
This won the People’s Choice Award at the New York City Wine & Food Festival two years in a row and it’s priced at $20, so my expectations were high.
It was fine.
Everything was high quality, and the blue cheese mixed with house buttermilk dill were the perfect marriage of flavors, but there was nothing award-winning about the patty itself. It’s a good burger, but not a $20 good burger. Don’t even get me started on the (air quotes) “Wagyu” beef.
Sarah ordered the Turkey Burger: “All-Natural Turkey Burger, Smashed Avocado, Swiss Cheese, and Truffle Mayo, served on a Martin’s Potato Roll with Lettuce, Tomato, a Pickle, and French Fries.”
This is a solid option. To the disappointment of Ron Swanson (and me), this is not a fried turkey leg inside a grilled hamburger, but it’s still good. Obviously, you have to grade on a curve because it’s turkey instead of beef, but the flavors work well and that truffle mayo is excellent.
Here’s the Mexico City: “Prime Burger, Pepper Jack Cheese, Pickled Jalapeños, crispy Onion Ring, and Chipotle Mayo served on a Martin’s Potato Roll with Lettuce, Tomato, a Pickle, and French Fries.”
Guy Selga from TouringPlans ordered this, and he loved it. (You can read Guy’s review of Black Tap here. Overall, he’s much more into the restaurant than we are.)
Here’s the American Burger (with bacon added): “Prime Burger, American Cheese and Special Sauce, served on a Martin’s® Potato Roll with Lettuce, Tomato, a Pickle, and French Fries.”
Len Testa, also of TouringPlans.com fame, ordered this and seemed to like it. This is Black Tap’s “basic” burger, which is priced at $16.
Let’s turn to the CrazyShakes. Perhaps I’m jaded, but as an ice cream enthusiast, I’ve become skeptical of these monstrosities. They’re on a ton of menus now, all well over $10, and usually have a surplus of stale or non-edible ingredients and a shortage of ice cream/milkshakes.
Sort of like how party fiends call New Year’s Eve amateur hour, I view freakshakes with a general sense of disdain. They’re for people who want pretty photos to post on Instagram, not ice cream-oholics like me.
Imagine my surprise when the viral social media sensation and Instagram-influenced Black Taps actually delivered with CrazyShakes that are both style and substance.
Above is the Cake Shake: “Cake Batter Shake with a Vanilla Frosted Rim with Rainbow Sprinkles topped with a Funfetti Cake Slice, Whipped Cream, Rainbow Sprinkles and a Cherry.”
Only a limited quantity of these are served per day, and that’s because this cake is made fresh daily and actual effort is put into it. I expected this to be stale and hard, but instead it was dense yet airy, sweet, and clearly a quality piece of cake. In short, this shake was delicious. I was shocked.
Next up, the Sweet ‘N Salty: “Peanut Butter Shake with a Chocolate and Peanut Butter Frosted Rim with Chocolate Gems and PB Cups topped with a Sugar Daddy, Pretzel Rods, Chocolate Covered Pretzel, Whipped Cream, Caramel and Chocolate Drizzle.”
Okay, this is where things should go off the rails. I mean, it’s topped with a Sugar Daddy still in its packaging. Total photo op. But also delicious. It delivers on the sweet and salty promise, and that made it addictively good. Another winner (albeit note as good as the Cake Shake unless you’re craving something more on the savory side.)
Finally, the Churro Choco Taco Shake: “Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shake with a Vanilla Frosted Rim with Cinnamon Toast Crunch topped with a Choco Taco, two Churros, Whipped Cream, and Dulce de Leche drizzle.”
Certainly this gimmicky mashup, a concoction straight from the Cheech and Chong Test Kitchen featuring a mashup of breakfast cereal and a full Choco Taco, would fail to deliver. Nope. To the contrary, this is one of the best milkshakes I’ve ever had, and the best of the trio we tried. All of the flavors came together perfectly, and the range of textures and ingredients made this a decadent delight. Honestly, I’d go back again for just this milkshake (even at $15!) without ordering anything else.
Overall, Black Tap Burgers & Shakes subverted my expectations. I went in thinking the award-winning burgers would be the highlight and the shakes would be a gimmicky afterthought, good for photos but not much else. As it turned out, the burgers were the mixed bag–they were fine but didn’t live up to the hype or prices–and the CrazyShakes were fantastic on every level. (Except price, but for the quality, they’re the best freakshakes you’ll get for the money.) In the end, we’re in no huge rush to go back to Black Tap, but it’s still a good addition to Downtown Disney for the shakes.
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Have you dined at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes? What’d you like or dislike? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!