Ladies, go to the restroom at E & E Stakeout Grill. I don't care if you don't have to go. It's got nice accommodations and one of those fancy Dyson hand dryers, plus something I've never seen before: a hook on the inside of the restroom door that you loop your forearm in so you don't have to deal with germy door handles. But that's not the draw. It's this: Above the sink is a mirror with perfect lighting that makes everyone look beautiful. I'm serious. I'm like a supermodel in there. • All this is by way of saying, after 26 years in the same location, that E & E Stakeout has done a major renovation. A good one. The kitchen received the bulk of chef Erwin Scheuringer's attention, with a complete gut and rebuild, but the rest of the building got new plumbing, air-conditioning, carpeting, banquette upholstery and other nice touches.
It's a bold move in this economy to close for six weeks, even during a humid Florida summer. Will customers come back? Will employees return to their posts? Based on a couple of recent visits, the answer to both is affirmative. E & E is the kind of place that gets chugging at 4 p.m. with an older, early-dinner crowd. The tables turn again for the 7-ish crew, and even as these people depart there's a trickle of new blood coming in. This place does some numbers. And the staff seems to have whiled away six weeks elsewhere in order to reup. Seasoned waiters can cut both ways. They know the menu cold, but can sometimes be overly chummy, a natural consequence of recognizing repeat diners — E & E staff occasionally overchats, but boy do employees know the food.
They may, for example, steer you away from one of the main menu's surf-and-turf dishes ($34-$35) in favor of an evening's special, nearly identical, for $17. It's a vast menu, with a new lineup of small plates, loads of steak options and a ton of seafood, so without some guidance it's a long read. Unlike a lot of places, the evening specials at E & E are among the greatest deals: One evening's smoky sliced duck breast paired with a Waldorf-inspired salad with blue cheese and a honey-lime vinaigrette was a shockingly reasonable $13.95.
Dinners come with a serviceable Caesar salad, gussied up with squiggles of fried multicolored tortillas, a strange but effective crouton substitute, as well as warm seeded rolls paired with individual ramekins of herbed butter/yogurt. These may make appetizers less de rigueur, but then you'd miss out on the novelty of the shucked corn canoe ($7.95), a corn husk filled with slightly spicy sauteed corn and peppers with molten pepper jack, upon which rides a passel of grilled shrimp. Nice, as is the shrimp piccata ($8.95), perfectly cooked white shrimp cavorting among black olives, tomato, feta and almond-crusted fried eggplant rounds all with a drizzle of lemon beurre blanc.
Steaks seem infallibly cooked — a good example of this was the rosy filet medallions center stage in the "Bookmaker" ($20.50), paired with grilled Roma tomatoes and lush sauce bearnaise. Lobster was a bit more hit-or-miss: On a first visit a Florida lobster tail seemed tired, but on a second visit a "Surf's Up" special ($17.50) brought a delicious tail alongside a nice blue crab cake and a scoop of smashed sweet potatoes (hints of maple, orange zest and cinnamon), along with the carefully cooked broccolini spear and julienned carrots that appear on most dinner plates.
In 26 years, you learn some things. E & E serves wine in those individual carafes because people like it that way. It's got "something for everyone" dialed: Celebrators can shoot the works while tablemates opt for a burger ($11), and gluten-free folks and vegans are given some choices (next time I'm getting the black bean chipotle burger, $11). It adds an automatic 15 percent gratuity, but gives clear and conspicuous notice so no one is caught napping, and offers a frequent-diner card that adds up quick. And in this recent remodel, E & E made savvy changes that give this grand dame a gloss of contemporary chic, even in the restrooms. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go powder my nose.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. She dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.