I grew up in a small Minnesota town about 90 miles east of Sioux Falls, S.D., and visited it often as a child. Before this year, most of my memories of the city involved shopping trips to the Empire Mall and family visits to Olive Garden.

While unlimited breadsticks were the key to my 12-year-old heart, after settling in Minneapolis I didn’t give much thought to returning. But when some close friends moved to Sioux Falls last year, it gave me a good reason to revisit my admittedly outdated thoughts about South Dakota’s largest city.

While the Olive Garden and Empire Mall remain, the Sioux Falls of today is growing and changing. Over the past few months, I made a couple of visits to the city’s newly revived downtown. What I found were charming cobblestone sidewalks lined with a diverse selection of memorable restaurants and a few independent shops, which together make downtown Sioux Falls a true hidden gem of the Midwest.

Where to eat

M.B. Haskett was my first introduction to Sioux Falls’ Phillips Avenue, the main hub of downtown. The delicatessen-style restaurant serves quiche and crêpes at breakfast, sandwiches at lunch and has a small dinner menu. While the restaurant itself is lovely, when my $5 brunch mimosa arrived in a pint glass, I was instantly sold. (324 S. Phillips Av.; 1-605-367-1100; mbhaskett.com).

Little did I know that was only the beginning. CH Patisserie is another Phillips Avenue must-try. While the macarons are the stars of the bakery case, nearly all of CH’s European-style treats look almost too pretty to eat (309 S. Phillips Av.; 1-605-275-0090; chpastries.com). The same can be said for the homemade cakes and pastries at Queen City Bakery, a coffee shop and bakery on 8th Street, just a short walk across the Big Sioux River. Over the course of a day I ate macaroons, and cake, and pastries, and each tasted as good as it looked (324 E. 8th St., 1-605-274-6060; queencitybakery.com).

Now let’s talk drinks. In the same building as Queen City Bakery, Prairie Berry sells its South Dakota-made wine on tap alongside beer from Miner Brewing Co. out of Hill City, S.D. (322 E. 8th St.; 1-605-496-7175; prairieberry.com). For something even more local, Phillips Avenue’s Woodgrain Brewing Co. taproom keeps a rotating selection of its locally made beer on hand alongside guest taps from microbreweries across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska (101 S. Phillips Av.; 1-605-310-5316; woodgrainbrew.com). And there’s more: At The Market on 6th Street, you can buy a bottle of wine from the shop and enjoy it on an outdoor patio, paired with selections of cheese, charcuterie and other appetizers from the eatery. (196 E. 6th St.; 1-605-275-9463; themarketsf.com)

If you’re lucky enough to visit Sioux Falls on a weekend, Sanaa’s offers a Friday-evening and Saturday-lunch 10-course buffet of flavorful Middle Eastern dishes. This is not your ordinary buffet — Sanaa’s carefully selected options include well-known classics such as falafel and hummus, as well as a variety of vegetarian and meat dishes that will keep you coming back for more (401 E. 8th St.; 1-605-275-2516; sanaacooks.com/restaurant).

For something a little more all-American, Phillips Avenue Diner is about as easy and fun as it gets. The retro restaurant — which is part Airstream trailer — serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in true diner style, complete with an array of malt options delivered with whipped cream and a cherry on top (121 S. Phillips Av., 1-605-335-4977; phillipsavenuediner.com).

And then there’s Breadico. In a nondescript building a few blocks from Phillips Avenue, you’ll find a picture-perfect wood-fire bakery and pizzeria. While Breadico bakes a variety of artisan breads in-house, the way they prepare the rest of their menu makes them unique. Throughout the course of a day, Breadico uses a wood-fired oven to cook everything from cinnamon rolls and pastries to picture-perfect Neapolitan pizza. Breadico is not a stop you want to miss. In fact, I recommend stopping twice — they’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekends (201 N. Weber Av.; 1-605-332-1202; facebook.com/Breadico).

Where to shop

But food isn’t the whole story. If you take a trip to Sioux Falls, I recommend leaving some extra space in the car. Over a three-block stretch of Phillips Avenue, you’ll find more than a dozen shops selling everything from vintage furniture to men’s clothing and paper goods.

While there are a few women’s stores sprinkled along the main drag, it’s the men’s stores that truly shine. Man Code offers up casual luxuries — think high-end flannels and casual menswear — alongside leather and home goods like Midwest-made wool blankets and overnight bags (330 S. Phillips Av.; 1-605-274-0102; mancodesf.com). Just down the street, J.H. & Sons sells an even more luxurious collection of men’s workwear and shoes. The store smells of expensive leather, and is full of dress shirts and other high-end clothing. If you want to get really fancy, there’s even a full backroom completely stocked with dozens of suits (216 S. Phillips Av.; 1-605-332-5088; jhandsons.com).

If you’re looking for smaller opulence, Oh My Word Luxury Paperie supplies beautiful greeting cards and paper goods from trendy brands like Rifle Paper Co. (328 S. Phillips Av.; 1-605-310-8698; ohmywordpaperie.com). Need more than a card? Unglued is filled to the brim with gifts created by local artists. Reminiscent of Minneapolis’ I Like You, Unglued houses everything from handmade children’s clothing and candles to pillows and tea towels. The store also sells quite a few Minnesota-themed home goods (218 S. Phillips Av.; 1-605-681-5509; ungluedmarket.com).

My tour of Sioux Falls ends at Urban Archaeology, a midcentury modern vintage and antique store on Phillips Avenue. The store is stocked full of carefully curated home goods and vintage clothing, much of which I would have loved to take home with me. As bearded men in flannel shirts roamed about the refurbished ’50s furniture and decades-old artwork, it almost felt like I was back in Minneapolis. Then I looked at the (very reasonable) prices, and realized that I most certainly was not (126 S. Phillips Av.; urbanarchaeology605.com).

Getting there

Sioux Falls is about 270 miles or 4 hours southwest of the Twin Cities via Interstates 35 and 90. 

Maggie LaMaack (@MaggieLaMaack) is a Minneapolis-based writer who works in marketing.