Q: Where can I get a good espresso martini?

A: More like, where can't you? We love a good, turbocharged cocktail and have sung the praises of the Grocer's Table and Fhima's Minneapolis' versions of the espresso martini.

But just as shoulder pads go in and out of style, so do cocktails of the '80s. These days, everyone has an espresso martini on the menu. But what we're most excited about is the Carajillo. Easier to execute but more flavorfully complex, the drink marries espresso with Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur giving off hints of spiced vanilla. Get one at Sidebar at Surdyk's, Colita in Minneapolis or the Block Food & Drink in St. Louis Park.

Or, for a wild card, go to Public Domain, the new North Loop cocktail bar that has no menu, only a cadre of knowledgeable bartenders shaking up the perfect drink to match your mood. On a recent visit, our group had three versions of creamy, coffee- and espresso-based drinks, each unique, caffeinated bliss.

Q: You did a list of best wings and you didn't include Runyon's? What is wrong with you?

A: OK, that's a polite paraphrasing of an onslaught of fiery emails, voice mails and story comments we received in response to our recent list of our favorite wings in the Twin Cities.

Runyon's fans, we hear you. Yes, it's a classic place for a basket of Buffalo wings. Yes, you love them dearly. What can we say? When we went (and yes, we did go), we didn't particularly enjoy them. We don't want to drag on one restaurant, which could have just been having an off day. But bland, dry and barely sauced chicken simply did not live up to our memories of the place, nor the vitriol we received from Runyon's die-hards. That's the beautiful thing about the list, though. They're our favorites.

Q: Are there any Twin Cities area restaurants that make a good patty melt? There was a big article about the patty melt in the New York Times.

A: That was a great article about what makes a patty melt more than just a burger on toast, and it made us want one immediately. So, we ordered from the nearest Red Cow and had an incredible patty melt ($16) in hand that very day. A double patty pounded thin is laced with melted American and Cheddar cheeses and smashed with caramelized onions. The garlic mayo slathered on sourdough takes it to another level. It's like a grilled cheese on steroids and we don't know where it's been all our lives.

"Those of us who like the sandwich resigned ourselves a long time ago to enjoying it at the same lunch counters and coffee shops where we have always gone to find it," Pete Wells lamented in his Times story. But that's not the case here, where a number of local restaurants keep raising the patty melt game.

St. Paul's Chip's Clubhouse begins its mushroom melt ($13.95) with roasted shiitakes, then caramelized onions and American cheese, plus a swipe of mustard caraway aioli. You might think they're forgetting something, but the beef (or veggie) patty is optional for an upcharge, and you might not even miss it. (But, obviously, get one.)

At the Lowry in Uptown, the Beyond Patty Melt ($18.50) is fully meat-free. Pumpernickel rye is the canvas for plant-based cheese, mayo-free aioli, arugula, onions and a Beyond burger patty. But if classic is your style, you can't go wrong with an old-school diner. Good Day Cafe, Keys Cafe, Nicollet Diner and the 50s Grill come to mind, and they all have patty melts on the menu.

Q: Are there any good date night deals?

A: There are! And it's so fun to discover new "date nights," which basically give you and a companion a multicourse dinner to share and, usually, a bottle of wine. They were an incredible value and a low-risk way to try a new place. Sadly, there haven't been as many of them since the pandemic. So, we were thrilled last year when they instituted date night at P.S. Steak in Minneapolis, one of the most romantic joints in town. This one offers lots of flexibility: Come in Sunday through Thursday, with or without a reservation, and for $100 total, you each get a choice of appetizer, entree and dessert. Wine is not part of the deal, but don't let that stop you.

On Wednesdays, $42 will get you access to "cheap date night" (interpret that however you wish) at Pinoli, on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Dinner for two includes an antipasto, two focaccia-like Roman pizzas and a dessert to share. And this one does include a bottle of wine (or two draft beers or Italian sodas).

In St. Paul, Tongue in Cheek has an $85 date-night deal, with two drinks, four small plates, two of their adorable two-bite "teasers" and one dessert. It's available Sunday through Thursday.

Q: We wanted to have lunch while shopping and saw that the D'Amico & Sons at Har Mar is closed. What happened?

A: Sadly, our cherry turkey pasta salad days in the east metro have come to an end. The company closed the Roseville location so quietly, we could almost say it was a silent closing. In a statement, a representative for D'Amico's said, "After 15 years, D'Amico & Sons in Roseville closed at the expiration of the lease on November 30, 2023. Diners can enjoy D'Amico & Sons in Golden Valley, Edina and downtown Minneapolis."

Q: I need a Dinkytown rec for dinner. My colleague is taking his daughter to visit the University of Minnesota.

A: The official Dinkytown district is only four square blocks, and within them you'll find one of the best non-dinner places in Minnesota. We'd be remiss to not at least inform your colleague that Al's Breakfast has blueberry pancakes worth waiting in line for.

But there are plenty of other places in the area around the U, starting with the Tea House Restaurant, possibly the best Chinese in town. And Annie's Parlour, the beloved U student haunt, is finally back open for burgers, malts and new memories. Just a bit farther afield, the Market at Malcolm Yards gives out-of-towners a taste of some of our most fun restaurants in one place (Wrecktangle Pizza, Bebe Zito, Revival Smoked Meats, Abang Yoli, we could go on).

If he gets some free time, grownup-friendly places in the area are Surly Brewing and O'Shaughnessy Distilling right next door. Surly's upstairs pizza? Chef's kiss.

But back to breakfast. Alma Cafe is a must-go for pastries, breakfast sandwiches or lunch. Alma has dinner, too, though it might be too fancy for the prospective student, unless she happens to be into fine dining. Kids these days!

Email all your burning dining questions to sharyn.jackson@startribune.com or joy.summers@startribune.com.