Richmond, make a splash with the best pool picnic

Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-29 16:24:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- After nearly two months of swimming your days away, you’re probably getting a little bored with the snack bar selection at your pool. It's time to start planning and packing ahead.

If you want to make a splash with your pool food this summer, you've got to think beyond the goldfish, string cheese, and Ziploc baggies full of carrots and celery sticks.

You need serious sustenance to keep you and your family floating.

So, forward your calls to the pool, and check out these options for avoiding the hangries while you splash the summer away.


If you're going to head to a centrally-located public pool in the middle of the summer, you’re going to need to pack your provisions wisely. First, stop by Dinamo.

Whether you prefer the egg salad, chopped liver, smoked salmon, or whitefish salad; they’ve got you covered on the crostinis, which are easier to eat and share than sandwiches; and pool food, after all, is communal food.

Top it off with a bucket of gazpacho, and then head to over to Stock Provisions to scoop up some King of Pops and Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches, which I suggest eating on the way to the pool because, dang, it’s hot outside, and we can’t risk meltage.

Strawberry ice cream cookie sandwich. PHOTO: Hannah Pollack

Strawberry ice cream cookie sandwich. PHOTO: Hannah Pollack

Craving crostini but prefer not to schlep your own food around? Let the professional food schleppers at Quickness RVA bike it over to you while you work on your tan.

Randolph Pool is within their delivery zone, and owner Frank Bucalo says that his customers enjoy eats from Lamplighter, Olio, and The Naked Onion while poolside.

Another very good option is a well-stocked picnic basket from nearby Garnett’s.

They’ll fill up a basket for you -- I suggest the tuna nicoise salad and a scuffletown chicken salad sandwich with potato chips -- then all you have to do is remember to bring the basket back on your return visit, or you’ll be haunted by bad picnic karma for the rest of the summer.

Oh, and don’t forget a slice of pie!


If you get your splashes in on the Northside and gravitate toward a vegan or vegetarian diet, Little House Green Grocery is all you need to know.

Start by loading up on chilled spicy avocado soup, and don’t stop until your basket is full of The Mediterranean Bakery’s dolmas, hummus, babaganoush, and pita.

While you’re at it, nab a sandwich or two -- there’s a tofu banh mi and a spicy tomato and mozzarella sandwich just calling your name.

To drink, try a Nauti Seltzer, a super refreshing, effervescent adult seltzer (read: boozy) in a can that looks like you’re drinking a La Croix and feels like you’re drinking a Mickey’s.

This has got LGRA written all over it.

US Lafayette sub PHOTO: Ayesha Z., on Yelp!

US Lafayette sub PHOTO:
Ayesha Z., on Yelp!

I know what I said before about sandwiches being messy and hard to share, but the exception to the hard-to-share rule (still messy, but worth it) would have to be a battleship from Black Sheep, less than 10 minutes away from Northside.

If you’re trying to increase the number of friends in your life, bait them with a USS Lafayette -- a baguette that seems to go on forever, stuffed with marinated artichoke hearts, spiced shrimp and green olive tapenade tossed with lettuce, tomato, and pickled red onion in a sherry vinaigrette.

It’s served cold and meant for sharing.


Everything’s coming up Southside for you Granite swimmers! While you don’t have a ton of options in the immediate vicinity, the options you do have are as convenient as they are delicious.

Let’s start with Maldini’s. Thanks to a little something we call “ABC On/Off,” you can order a white pizza with bacon, a plate of affetato misto (a mix of meats and cheeses), AND a six pack of beer and/or bottle of wine.

PHOTOS: Maldini's

Though, if it’s going to be the latter, make sure you pour that thing into a Big Gulp because there is a strict no glass policy at this and every pool.

The best part is this: Maldini’s will deliver it right to your very own chaise lounge. Cheers to that.

Also nearby, you’ve got Galley, with its very pool-friendly community plate, consisting of cheese, nuts, vegetables, hummus, pesto, and mixed greens.

“Rabbit food,” you say?

Not when you add a dozen buffalo wings to your order.

Top it off with a sweet treat from the nearby WPA Southside, and you’re in business --swimming business.


PHOTO: Perk Facebook

PHOTO: Perk Facebook

For Bon Air-ea swimmers, your best bet is a trip to Perk!, which will give you access to Ellwood Thompson’s lemon basil chicken salad and/or Sally Bell’s potato and macaroni salads without so much as crossing a bridge.

You can take any Perk! sandwich and turn it into a handy dandy lunchbox, lovingly packed with your choice of chips, potato salad, and/or soup, plus a sweet treat for $10.

An extra dollar gets you an iced coffee or iced tea, which, trust me, you will appreciate once you get to the pool and are surrounded by your kids’ screaming friends.

And speaking of kids, Perk!’s kiddie lunch boxes come with a choice of kid-friendly sandwich, plus chips, a treat, and milk or juice for only $8.

Boom, you’ve covered the whole family and you haven’t even broken a sweat… yet.


Tucked away in a tree-lined oasis near the University of Richmond, you’ll find this sweet Henrico swimming hole.

If Ridgetop is your pool of choice, swing by Stella's Grocery and pack up a basket with tzatziki and pita, orzo salad, and maroulosalata -- a mix of lettuce, dill, scallion, feta, olive oil and lemon.

PHOTO: Stellas Grocery

PHOTO: Stellas Grocery

Planning to stay through the dinner hour? Throw a rotisserie chicken in your basket. Add a bottle of rosé or a sampler of Greek beer, plus a few Souroti’s -- Greek mineral water for your hydration needs, and top it off with a box of Kinder Hippos for when your sweet tooth starts talking.

But remember, if you’re bringing booze, bring something plastic to put it in.

Glass and swimming pools are sworn enemies.

No time for all that shopping? Palani Drive offers a quick and easy menu of wraps that pack and travel well, so they’ll be ready when you are.

And their smoothies are perfect for keeping the heat waves at bay.

Try the Coco Loco, a blend of strawberries, pineapple, coconut milk and mango juice; and you’ll feel, however briefly, that you’ve been transported to some fabulous island. Or your money back.*


In the far reaches of the West End, you’ll find swim clubs of the Raintree and Wembly varieties.

Yay, Sno-Kones!

Yay, Sno-Kones!

Raintree offers a decent selection of fried things, including onion rings and fried pickles, from its own snack bar; but man cannot live by fried things alone, so if you find yourself headed to either pool, stop by Kuba Kuba Dos and order the entremes, a generous sampler of chorizo, cheese, scallop ceviche, tasso ham, marinated olives, roasted garlic, asparagus & fresh vegetables.

Your whole family can nibble on it for hours until you’re ready for Sno-Cones.

Also just a few minutes away is Deep Run Roadhouse, whose menu includes both BBQ nachos and BBQ burritos, plus something called a "salad," though, I have to tell you, if you're ordering a salad from one of Richmond’s best barbecue spots, you’re doing it wrong.

Skip the salad and opt for a family pack, available in sizes fit for four to fourteen people, because we all know sharing is caring.

*Palani Drives makes no such claims, but I assure you, you’ll feel 30% more tropical than you did pre-smoothie.

Stephanie's company, The Apple Cart, works with dozens of food businesses in the Richmond area. Some of them may appear in her articles. To see what businesses Stephanie works with, visit The Apple Cart's website. 

Stephanie's food columns will appear regularly on

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