New chef blazes a trail at Trailside Tap

Chef Sydney Henricks has cooked up a delicious new menu at Ankeny’s Trailside Tap. (Photo: Trailside Tap)

By Karla Walsh

In March, chef Mike Holman forged a new path, shifting from uptown Ankeny’s Trailside Tap to downtown Des Moines’ Mulberry Street Tavern. In the process, he left some big shoes to fill. (See our write-up from 2021. Warning: It’ll make you hungry.)

Fortunately, during a recent visit to the Trailside Tap, at 710 S.W. Third St., right next to the High Trestle Trail, I was thrilled to learn the bistro is still in very capable hands. As soon as I asked the bartender who the new executive chef was, a familiar face strolled out from the kitchen: Sydney Henricks, whom I’d met during her time as student at the Iowa Culinary Institute. (She graduated in May 2022.)

Henricks has worked at several establishments around town — Rube’s Steakhouse, Hyperion Field Club, Hotel Fort Des Moines — and said the kitchen has been her sweet spot since 2015. That’s when she officially “fell in love with mastering knife techniques, discovering local produce and connecting with a collage of intensely driven people.”

Speaking of drive, she learned a lot about it from her days as a competitive hockey player from ages 8 to 18 and has transferred those lessons about teamwork to the kitchen. She said she’s both humbled and excited to step into the coach’s role at Trailside Tap, where she and sous chef Alex Vockings took a brief timeout to get their bearings before debuting a dinner menu that is 80% new.

If you’re a fan of the Tap’s cauliflower wings (Korean barbecue and classic Buffalo), don’t worry: They’re not going anywhere. But you’ll want to try the new additions, too, including a hearty smoked pork loin and a s’mores brownie skillet (pictured) that is Henricks’ favorite item on the menu. It was inspired by fond memories of her family’s summer barbecues.

Besides that, “the braised cabbage is an Iowan dad’s idea of a ‘vegetable dish,’” Henricks said. “My family’s version consisted mostly of those individually wrapped Kraft American slices, but it was one of my favorites nonetheless.” The new version at the Tap pays homage to that, but with a nod to classic bar flavors — beer cheese and mustard — and fresh local salad of apples and celery.

Henricks said she used to think that her deep roots in Iowa might limit her career. “But the more I began to shape my culinary voice, I realized quite the opposite was true,” she said. “Iowa is known for its agriculture-enriched background. How lucky am I to be surrounded by so many incredible local purveyors? What I want to express with my cooking is simply a road map of where I’m from and flavors from my childhood, blended with technique and growth. I aim to showcase local products in an elevated way.”

For updates about Trailside Tap’s specials and events, follow the team on Instagram @trailside.tap and at facebook.com/trailsidetap. Looking further ahead, the Business Record has reported about the Tap’s plans for a major expansion starting as early as this fall.

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