Best Restaurants in Chiang Mai

I’m a terrible cook. Pasta and stir-fry is about all I can do at this point in my life. Luckily for me, Chiang Mai is enriched with cheap and tasty food on every block. I’m a huge fan of quick street food just as I’m a huge fan of classy fine dining. Mostly, I suppose I just like eating good food with people I love. Here’s my eating out shortlist:

THAI FOOD

Cat House: One of the most enjoyable and interesting meals in Chiang Mai. Cat House knows its stuff! It’s a fusion Thai/Latin/Western shop hidden down a soi just outside the moat. With a menu of curry burritos, sandwiches drizzled with chutney and sesame banana ginger lassies, I don’t think I have to explain it further. 85-150THB

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Yellow Sparrow: A recent find, this pleasant garden restaurant is the ideal spot to chill out with friends and eat a fresh & tasty lunch. It’s in the Jed Yod area, along the mini canal road. The menu is in Thai, so just tell them your meat or veggie and they’ll cook you something delish. They have free wifi, so spend the afternoon here. 60-80THB

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Lemon Tree: One of my Chiang Mai go-tos. This restaurant serves up high-quality ingredients and lovely flavors. Always reliable and filled with Thai patrons. 60-150THB

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ปักษ์ใต้พัทลุง (Khaw Kaeng Pak Tai): Delicious Southern Thai dishes and always popular with the locals during lunch. It is my favorite spot to catch-up with co-workers and share comfort food. The fried chicken, fried fish and winter melon/egg dishes are the best! Watch out for the extremely spicy curries. 40-80THB

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Sukontha Mookata: You have not experienced Thai food culture until you have been to this massive open-space market-like restaurant. Thais love their buffets and their suki, so a combo of those will surely bring hungry bellies – it’s called “mookata.” Sukontha blows all ’em out the water with it’s football field size buffet of raw meats, veggies, noodles, cooked foods, raw seafood, doughnuts, ice cream, khanom, fruits, juices and soups. For 210THB, you can spend hours there grabbing as much food as you like, boiling it all up in your bbq and drinking with friends. Thinking about this place gets me so excited, I want to pee my pants.

Regina’s Kitchen: Hidden away in an antique shop along the West side of the Ping River. There are only two small tables in this shop, so I didn’t expect the food to be anything amazing. When the waitress presented the dish, it was beautiful! High marks for presentation and even higher marks for taste. 60-150THB

Baan Rai Yarm Yen: Huge open teak house on a small soi just east of the Ping and north of the Super Highway. Serves specialty northern Thai dishes like fried crickets, frog soup, ant eggs and more! Of course, all the regular stuff is on the menu too: steamed fish, sticky rice, tom yum, nam prik ong, etc. It’s always packed and seems the perfect dinner place for a large group of friends. 200-300THB

Ginger Kafe @ The House: More on the Hi-So side, about 180-300THB/dish. I guarantee you will love this place. Purple sofas as seating and quirky decor make this place charming and fabulous. The food is expertly prepared, making Ginger Kafe one of my favorite hipster spots in Chiang Mai. They also feature some Western dishes.

The Gallery: Along the Ping River, this is another Hi-So restaurant @ 200THB/person. Pleasantly wonderful dishes, but go here for the ambience. You can sit under romantic lighting and enjoy a peaceful dinner next to the river. Try the duck or banana leaf salad!

SP Chicken: Great for any night. Rotisserie chicken and delicious pork or beef slices, served with chili and homemade sauces. Basic menu, but who knew just chicken and chili sauce could be so good? Don’t forget the Khaw Niaw. 60-100THB

Khun Nai Tern: A bit odd, a lot a bit kitschy, and a fantastic selection of spicy salads! 50-150THB

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Khao Soy stand at Chang Phuak Night Market: Great khao soy! Cheap, fast and tasty. 30THB

Khaw Kha Mu Cowboy Hat Lady at Chang Phuak Night Market: Over the past year, this lady and her pork have become the hit of the town. 30THB

Khun Churn Vegetarian: The food is not good nor bad, but it’s a fun lunch buffet. The garden seating is pleasant and the food is very fresh and healthy. (Only including this one in the list because it is one of the better vegetarian restaurants in CM.) 

Street Stalls I don’t know the name of and will give more precise details on soon:

Noodle Shop on Photoram Road in Jed Yod area…

Pink Pig: Khao Soy dumpling stand in Rajabhat, Santitham area…

Isaan Food Stand on Nimmanhaemin Road…get the nam tok muu

Muu Bing Stand on Chotana Road – man with cowboy hat

NON-THAI FOOD

Magical Garden Cafe: If you’re hankering for savory Western comfort foods that are hard to find in CM, head over to this cafe! It’s run by the Magical Light Foundation, an organization supporting education for hill tribe and indigenous children in Thailand. The menu includes apple & cheese toast, peppery vegetable soup (hearty!), vegetable gratin, pesto pasta, banana chocolate chip cookies, and a page of Thai foods. Each party gets their own private bamboo gazebo in the garden. The prices are a decent 85-165THB and the meal well worth-it. I’ll be going back to this place often!

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Vegetable Gratin (front) and Apple/Cheese Toast

Curry Scoop: Twists on Japanese curry for 50-100THB. I absolutely love Japanese curry and this place ingeniously pairs large plates of curry with baguette or udon with curry or stir fried curry rice omelette, etc. Though not quite “authentic,” the restaurant is delicious and has a friendly environment. Great to lunch with friends and co-workers.

White Plate: I don’t really go out of my way to eat burgers, but holy crap, these are amazing! These New Zealand burgers are among the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. Go for the mega huge beef burger meal – 300THB and worth every baht. They also have mango-beef, vegetarian, off-the-menu pineapple-beef (so juicy!), etc. for around 150THB. Burgers are cooked medium/medium-well, but I’m sure you can customize, and the special ingredient that gives the burgers their edge is imported tangy beetroot.

Salad Concept: A huge bowl of salad with toppings for only 70THB! I love the freedom of choice and vibrant atmosphere of the restaurant. The salads are massive and there is a great selection of toppings and dressings. Smoothies are to die for here! I feel so healthy every time I walk out the door 🙂

Burmese Food or Organic Vegetable: Both of these small hut/restaurants are across the street from Salad Concept and are extremely popular among the expats of CM. Cheap, tasty, fresh food and a variety of options.

Bird’s Nest: Overpriced, but great healthy food and relaxed vibe. It’s always packed with expats or travel bloggers because of the easy-going atmosphere and free wifi. 100-150THB

Franco-Thai: The French-est joint in CNX, complete with French menus, French-speaking waiters, French expat regulars and Francophile patrons. Arguably, the best French food in Chiang Mai at some of the cheapest prices. My Parisian friend just about had a 2-hour orgasm while we ate here. 150-250THB

Lanna Korean: You know it’s good when Korean expats drive 40 minutes from Hang Dong everyday just to eat dinner at this restaurant. Tucked away in my mooban, this homely set-up is the best Korean I’ve had in the city and is run by a charming family who has lived in CM for 6 years. It’s open everyday from morning to 10pm. @Chotana Niwet on the road next to 7-11, across from Lanna Golf Course. 100-200THB

Nana Bakery: Really amazing warm croissants, just like in Paris! Wonderfully flaky and buttery and popular with the French expats. Go early in the morning for breakfast – they also serve French and American style breakfasts. In the Santitham area, 50-120THB

Free Bird: While I’m not the hugest fan of Burmese food, Free Bird serves it up well. The Burmese salads are fresh and tasty. Plus, the restaurant supports the education of Burmese migrant children!

Guu Fusion Roti & Tea: Delicious sweet or savory roti fusions! I’m more a fan of the savory meal, so I haven’t tried the desserts, but they do look fantastic. The chicken and chili paste roti is tasty and filled with perfectly cooked bell peppers and basil. The Mexican chicken roti, though tex-mexed is better than 90% of the Mexican food in town. I love mataba, so give that roti selection a try and delight in how lovely it tastes. 50-100THB

Bake and Bite: American food heaven. I ordered a turkey and avocado sandwich, expecting it to be a standard deli sandwich. What came out was a huge plate of gravy and cranberry covered savory turkey meat in warm toasted bread slices with avocado chunks. Holy crap, I haven’t had a proper Thanksgiving in so long. 120-200THB

Dukes: If you haven’t heard of Dukes, this must be your first day in town. Every expat needs an occasional trip to Dukes for a reminder of how amazing Western food tastes. Mushroom and beef burgers, juicy steak sandwiches, ribs, huge pizzas and all made in authentic Western style! (Not like the “western food for the Thai palate” trend in CM) 200-350THB

Yamato: Japanese food is not terribly great in CM (my grandmother would disown me if she saw some of the sushi places I go to), but Yamato is one saving grace. It’s far from the city, but the lunch buffet is excellent and worth the trip. The buffet is like going to the fish market. There are plates on one side and trays of various raw ingredients on the other. You just put whatever you want on a plate, give it to the cook and he’ll fry it up for you according to your desires. You’re free to go back up as many times as you want!

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Le Crystal: Fine dining French cuisine. At over 6000THB/person, you’re paying a hefty price and you’re getting five star service. Went with a huge group for a combined birthday celebration and the restaurant had reserved a personal symphony for us! Every course of the meal was aesthetically pleasing and quite delectable. Service was impeccable. I almost melted when I tasted the truffle soup.

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Originally published on August 1, 2013.

About redmudstain

An American Expat in Chiang Mai, Thailand ​ Not willing to settle down just yet - I'm only in my mid-twenties after all - I took a leap across the big big pond and fell onto Thai soil. Well, it was a little less spontaneous than that... ​ After a grueling application process, Princeton in Asia bestowed upon me a one-year fellowship with The Life Skills Development Foundation in Chiang Mai. A renowned child rights non-profit foundation in Northern Thailand, TLSDF is giving me the opportunity to research critical social issues, travel across field sites in the nation's upper regions, converse with the international human rights community and of course, learn Thai! ​ This is my life - the beauty, struggle, culture shock and adventure - in the charming city of Chiang Mai. Blog: https://redmudstain.wordpress.com/ UPDATE: Chiang Mai got me for 2 years!

7 comments

  1. Matt

    Great write up! Please keep it updated!

    I used to love the cathouse but thought it went out of buisness on my last visit… Now I see that it just moved! Great news! I will be back in town soon and will have to ask you how to find some
    Of these other spots!

    • Thanks, Matt! I’ve been to some great new places, but keep forgetting to update. Look out for additions in the near future 😀

      If you need directions anywhere, feel free to message me again. Cheers x

  2. Tom McOmlette

    Any western breakfast recommendations? Been here? http://www.apostrophe-chiangmai.com/

    • Hi Tom,

      I think I remember you from a FB group – didn’t you hold a contest for the naming of your new cafe? I’ve had great French/American breakfasts (croissants especially) at Cool Guesthouse on North Moat and Nana Bakery-Cafe in Santitham. I’ll definitely check out Apostrophe very soon! Cheers, J

  3. Street food in Chiang Mai is nice, but it has a more spicy undertone to that of the capital. http://backpackerlee.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/thai-foodporn/

  4. Thanks for this article! I’ve been in Chiang Mai nearly 2 months but needed some new ideas for dining out. 🙂

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