Max Walraven: The Lilly Pad


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Drive just about 15 miles east of downtown Richmond on Route 5 you are in another world. The Lilly Pad, which dubs itself Richmond's only waterfront bar and restaurant, sits at Kingsland Marina along the James River in Varina.

While the Lilly Pad has been around for decades, it has a new owner and a new menu which has created a new vibe in the old spot.

"I've been in Richmond long enough to know that the restaurants that have the good food are the ones that sustain," owner Max Walraven said. "Mamma Zu's is a perfect example. Crappy little building, weird little location, line out the door for 35 years because the food was so good. I don't want to run a restaurant that has a subpar menu and say, 'oh, but the view is nice.' I want to have a great menu. I want people to come out here in the winter to eat and huddle up under the space heaters that all the restaurants have now to have a good piece of fish or a burger."

Walraven has pushed for many changes at the Lilly Pad, but there are some aspects of the old restaurant he refused to touch.

"We have the buckets of beer, which I must say we've done a lot of comps to other bars and restaurants around Richmond and I have yet to find a restaurant with a domestic beer special, as inexpensive as ours. That bucket of beer for $10 is $2.50 a domestic and we run that every day. That's, you know, we that's not a happy hour special. That's every day," he said. "That was one of the things from the previous Lilly Pad that I said, we've got to keep the burger and bucket, we got to keep the bucket of beer special. There are these elements that kind of make the Lilly Pad the Lilly Pad. And I wanted to keep those intact, including the name you know, I purchased the name from the previous owner because I said we can't rename it. It can't be River Grill. It can't be the something bistro. It's got to be the Lilly Pad."

The Lilly Pad features live music on Saturday nights and Salsa dancing every Thursday.

It is located at 9680 Osborne Turnpike in Varina.

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