Like many people who did business downtown when the pandemic first hit, Brent Frederick found himself looking for new opportunities closer to home.

The owner of Jester Concepts, the restaurant group behind Borough, Parlour, P.S. Steak and Butcher & the Boar — all located in the urban cores of Minneapolis and St. Paul — noticed a lack of higher-end dining options in his own neighborhood on the west side of Edina, where residents were suddenly spending a lot more time.

Meanwhile, his city-center restaurants were shouldering a lack of downtown workers, their business dinners and happy hours drying up. His customers "were craving something in the suburbs," Frederick said.

"At the end of the day, we just knew we had to diversify."

Four years later, Jester Concepts is opening its first suburban restaurant. Starling is coming to Edina this spring — an exact date hasn't been set — and it won't be anything like the other restaurants in the portfolio.

P.S. Steak and Butcher & the Boar are heavily meat-focused; Parlour is all about burgers; Borough is contemporary American. Starling will have a little of everything. Chef Wyatt Evans' menu of shareable small plates will include Balinese fried rice, butter chicken tacos, green curry walleye and a Moroccan-style seafood boil. Starling will serve lunch, dinner and brunch, and dishes will fall in the $10 to $25 range.

"Edina and Minnesota don't necessarily need another American food [restaurant], there are plenty of those," Frederick said. "We're not going to stand out if we don't do something unique and different."

It's about as far from a Perkins menu as one can get — notable, because Starling is standing on the footprint of one of the green-roofed eateries, in a quadrant of Edina distant from restaurant hotbeds like 50th & France and Southdale (4917 Eden Av., Edina,

Jester signed on with Reuter Walton Development, which tore down the existing structure across the street from City Hall to make way for a 196-unit apartment building with a ground-floor restaurant. Shea designed the snug, 3,700-square-foot eatery, which will seat 63 in the dining room and 18 at the bar.

The issues that Jester restaurants faced downtown back in 2020 have largely improved since the early pandemic, with St. Paul's Parlour bouncing back the fastest, Frederick said. (Jester's Monello and Constantine closed last year when the Hotel Ivy was sold to new ownership.)

Even so, the wheels for Starling were already in motion.

"It was in the heart of the pandemic when we decided to do this, when crime was pretty bad and there was a lack of downtown presence and workers," he said. "I don't know if I were to make that decision today, if I necessarily would. But we know that we need to diversify. We need to have concepts in multiple cities, not just one. It was more of a liability issue."

If all goes well, Starling could become a blueprint for more suburban restaurants from Jester Concepts.

"We're not necessarily ruling out anything in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but I think we'd like to venture into territory that's new to us," Frederick said. "We are basing it off of economics and where we think the people that are going to appreciate what we have to offer are going to be. Conditions are different, and people are starving for that in their hometown."

The Smoker lives on

Boomin' Barbecue may have left Minnesota's metro area for Hudson, Wis., but its Cadillac of a smoker is returning. Over the weekend, we learned via social media that the smoker that once churned out that incredible barbecue has relocated to Roseville with Station No. 6 food truck. Although we won't be tasting the low-and-slow out of there just yet — Station No. 6 has to work out a plan with Roseville's health department first — the smoke is coming. That will be in addition to the burgers that crew is already slinging at the Rosetown Legion Post 542, 700 W. County Road C.

New Bánh Mì available in Blaine

126 Bakery is now open in Blaine seven days a week, serving a variety of signature sandwiches and other scratch-made Vietnamese dishes. The restaurant opened in December with a menu that includes egg rolls, steamed bao and a whole lineup of sandwiches. Look for the restaurant off County Road 14, at 1250 126th Av. NE.