Food is definitely a highlight of any trip to Thailand, and Chiang Mai offers an excellent selection of good value restaurants. Some of the top restaurants in Chiang Mai rival those in Bangkok, but at half the price, and you can find affordable eateries of both Thai and international cuisines all across the city.
Wandering the old town or Night Market area, you’ll encounter all sorts of al-fresco or air-conditioned choices, and the northerners take particular pride in ambience; often laying on discreet live music. The riverside area provides a particularly romantic atmosphere, but you needn’t venture far to get a quick bite at a pavement noodle shop. Northern Thailand also has its own distinctive spicy cuisine.
The Good View Restaurant: Cavernous, noisy and popular with locals, here’s where you will find lively bands, abundant and tasty food, and a riverside location. Dine early because the band is so loud conversation is impossible. Open: 10:00-01:00, 13 Charoen-Raj Rd., Wat Gate. Tel: (053) 241 866, Email.
The Riverside Bar & Restaurant: Popular and lively with two live bands, a broad, mixed menu and indoor/outdoor seating. Features a romantic setting alongside the Ping River. Open: 10:00-01:00, 9-11 Charoen-Raj Rd., Wat Gate. Tel: (053) 243 239, Email.
The Brasserie: Best known for its blues and rock-guitar playing main man ‘Took’—a local legend with a six-string—the Brasserie has since closed and has been relocated to Chaiyaphum Road, the eastern (outer) moat road, across from The House restaurant. Although open nightly, Took no longer plays regularly. Open: 17:00-02:00, 94/1-2 Chaiyapoom Rd., Sriphum. Mobile: (082) 892 9283, Email.
Antique House Ban Him-Ping: Here you’ll discover a beautiful 100-year-old teak house with good service and toned down food for Western tastes in a relaxing atmosphere. Open: 10.00-01.00 (Daily), Chiang Mai-Lumphun Rd., Watket. Tel: (053) 240 270, Email.
The House Food & Kitchen Bar: This is one of Chiang Mai’s most commendable restaurants, serving exceptional Asian fusion dishes and creative cuisine in an exclusive atmosphere. The tapas bar and menu is a lighter choice. Open: 09:00-23:00, 199 Moonmuang Rd., Sriphum. Tel: (053) 419 011-13, Email.
Khun Nai Teun Sai: Is roughly translated as ‘the lady wakes late’ and is the delightful creation of Khun Noi. This is the place to head for an unusual Thai menu, along with cute décor, perfect background music and a nice ambience that attracts bohemian trendies. Open: 10:00-23:00, 3 Nimmanhemin Soi 11, Suthep. Tel: (053) 222 208, Email.
Palaad Tawanron Restaurant: This popular restaurant enjoys an unbeatable location among the forests on the lower slopes of the mountain (above the zoo). The views are great, but it gets busy so be prepared for a long wait for your food. Follow the signs from the right turn near the top of Suthep Road and behind Chiang Mai University. Open: 11:30-Midnight, 100 Suthep Rd., Tel: (053) 216 039, Email.
The Moxie Restaurant & Mix Bar: The in-house restaurant at Chiang Mai’s hippest new hotel, the D2, serving Thai fusion and international food. You also get the stunning Mix bar, its good-looking staff, and a convenient location. dusitD2 Hotel, 100 Chan Klan Rd., Tel: (053) 999 999.
The Gallery Restaurant: Offers a charming, relaxed, riverside experience in one of the oldest wooden structures in Chiang Mai. There’s also an art gallery, although food and service can be variable. Open: Midday-01:00, 25-27-29 Charoen-Raj Rd., Tel: (053) 248 601-2, Email.
Since many foreigners visiting or living in Chiang Mai enjoy a leisurely time, restaurants and eating out feature highly in their daily activities. They offer some of the best value for money in Thailand, with an excellent selection at very good prices. It’s quite affordable to spoil yourself at the magnificent Dhara Dhevi’s Lanna restaurant for first class Thai food, or snack on tapas at Su Casa in Nimminhemin, while unpretentious places like Bake n Bite are always a popular choice. Or you might want to go for a truly authentic, local experience at the traditional food court in the lower level of the Northern Village, Airport Plaza. In fact, you needn’t walk far down any street in the city to discover pavement snacks or fruit on sale.
Le Coq d’Or Restaurant: Unrivalled in the city with 35 years of French food and wine excellence in a lovely antique teak house. One luxury experience. Open: 11:00-14:00 & 18:00-22:00, 11 Soi 2, Koh Klang Rd., Nonghoi. Tel: (053) 141 555, Email.
Anantara Restaurant: An upmarket and stately experience in the grand old colonial former British consulate, located in the Anantara Hotel. Features fine dining, good service and a convenient riverside location. Anantara Chiang Mai Resort, 123-123/1 Charoen Prathet Rd., Chang Klan. Open: 06:30-22:30, Tel: (053) 253 333, Email.
Farang Ses: A silver service, luxury-priced French restaurant set in an extraordinary Lanna-themed hotel in San Khampaeng in a temple-styled building. The menu offers world class dishes and a first-class dining experience unmatched in Chiang Mai. Dhara Dhevi Hotel, 51/4 Moo 1, Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Rd., Tasala. Open: 18:00-22:30, Tel: (053) 888 888.
Girasole Ristoranre Italiano: Is a conveniently located pizzeria and trattoria from the expert Italian management at La Gondola. Indoor (air con) and al-fresco dining available in the Kad Klang Wiang garden arcade near Thapae Gate. Good menu and service. Kad Klang Wiang, 71 Rachadamnoen Rd., Open: 07:30-23:00, Tel: (053) 276 388.
Archer’s Bar & Restaurant: Set between Ratwithi and Ratchadamnoen (Walking Street) in the heart of the Old City, Archer’s offers Chiang Mai’s best English breakfast and also a killer roast beef Sunday lunch as well. But there is also a range of well-priced yet delicious international and Thai dishes as well as beers and spirits. Owner Mark is a top bloke for a chat as well. Open: 08:00-23:30, 133/4 Ratchapakinai Rd., Mobile: (084) 186 5788, Email.
Giorgio Ristorante Italiano: An unassuming Italian place near the Night Market with exceptional food and faultless service, boasting clientele such as the Crown Prince. Open: 11:30-14:30 & 18:00-22:30 (Monday-Saturday), 18:00-22:30 (Sunday). 2/6 Prachasamphan Rd., Tel: (053) 271866, Email.
Jia Tong Heng: A busy choice full of Chiang Mai’s elite, with first-class Chinese food and service. Situated near Anusarn Market. Sri Din Chai Branch: 193/2-3 Sridonchai Rd., Tel: (053) 820 860-2.
Le Crystal Restaurant: A five-star, French experience with silver service and an exotic menu, all in a beautiful garden setting beside the Ping River. Open: 18:00-22:30, 74/2 Paton Rd., Tel (053) 872 890-1, Email.
Fujian Chinese Restaurant: Located in the Dhara Dhevi Hotel within Kad Dhara Shopping Village, where Cantonese cuisine is delivered with authentic ambience and impeccable service. Their all-you-can-eat lunch dim sum is very affordable. Dhara Dhevi Hotel, 51/4 Moo 1, Chiang Mai-Sankampaeng Rd., Tasala. Open: 11:30-14:30 & 18:00-22:30. Tel: (053) 888 888.
Miguel’s Cafe: Perhaps the best place in Chiang Mai for authentic Mexican food, though not always the best service, with a delicious Tex Mex menu and margaritas. Open: 09:00-23:00, 106/1 Chaiyaphum Rd., Tel: (053) 874 148, Email.
Chiang Mai Saloon: American-style burger and ‘South West’ steakhouse; friendly staff; nice atmosphere; big screen music videos and sporting events; pool tables; free internet; cheap margaritas. Open: 11:00-Midnight, 30 Ratchawithi Rd., Tel: (053) 219 667.
The Duke’s Grill & Bar: is an American-style steak house popular with NGO and missionaries for its tasty and hearty menu, professional service and nice atmosphere – busy Sundays. Ping River Branch: 49/4-5 Chiang Mai-Lamphun Rd., Open: 10:30-23:30, Tel: (053) 249 231, Email.
Ratana’s Kitchen: A popular place with air-con and tasty Thai and international food, conveniently located. Open: 07:30-Midnight, 320-322 Thapae Rd., Tel: (053) 874 173.
Aroon Rai Restaurant: Simple and well known, yet not as famous as it once was, with buffet, basic menu, and 35 years experience. Open: 11:00-21:00, 45 Kotchasarn Rd., Tel: (053) 276 947.
Suanpaak Restaurant: Set in pleasant gardens with a creative, simple menu drawing from its organic fields onsite. They also sell produce. Open: 07:00-22:00, 61 Moo 3, Airport Rd., Tel: (053) 904 201.
Charcoa Bakery & Restaurant: Pleasant and peaceful little restaurant attached to a guesthouse near Sripoom corner, with a surprisingly good international menu, as well as cakes, good service and ambience. Open: 07:00-22:30, 4 Soi 1, Sripoom Rd., Sripoom. Tel: (053) 212 681, Email.
The Vegetarian Society: A popular, non-profit, lunchtime canteen, providing cheap organic food (adjacent to Bang Jak Gas station). Open: 06:00-14:00 (Monday-Friday), 42 Mahidol Rd., Tel: (053) 271 262.
Aum Vegetarian Restaurant: An all-veggie, centrally-located place with a nice ambience. Leave your shoes at the door. Open: 09:30-20:00, 65 Moonmuang Rd., Tel: (053) 278 315.
The Whole Earth Restaurant: Serves up excellent Indian food (with a wide vegetarian selection) in an antique house with a lovely garden. Open: 11:00-22:00, 88 Sridonchai Rd., Chang Klan. Tel: (053) 282 463.
Blue Diamond the Breakfast Club: This health-food gem has fresh bakes and healthy herbs, making it a popular brunch place. Tricky to find. Open: 07:00-20:30, 35/1 Moonmuang Rd., Soi 9, Sriphum. Tel: (053) 217 120, Email.
Khun Churn: Serves a vegetarian buffet (179 Baht) every lunch time, popular with Thais and expats alike. Open: 10:30-15:00, JJ Market, Atsadathon Rd., Mobile: (081) 881 3032.
Northern food and Thai cuisine
Most of the restaurants in Chiang Mai serve a cornucopia of delicious Thai dishes and this alone could be the highlight of your visit. Be a little adventurous and try the piquant Tom Yum Goong (a seafood soup delicately balanced with sweet, sour, spicy and salty ingredients) or the famous Khaeng Khieo Wan (green curry). Then there’s the steaming Pla Jian (whole fish poached in ginger, onions and soy sauce), or the mild Gai Phat Met Ma Muang (chicken fried with vegetables and cashew nuts), or the perennial Thai lunch favourite Somtam (a spicy papaya salad with a myriad of herbaceous ingredients).
Northern Dishes include Sai Ua (spicy sausage), Khao Soy (Shan-Yunnanese influenced curry noodles), Kaeng Hang Lae (pork curry casserole with ginger and peanuts), and Kaeng Yuak (banana palm curry). Many of these dishes are served as vegetarian dishes and those with a sweet tooth should certainly sample the coconut-sweetened Khao Niew Med Ma Muang (sticky rice and mango with nuts). Learn more in our complete Thai food guide.
Khantoke Thai cultural experience: In recent years, the concept of the Khantoke evening has grown in popularity, and these complete cultural experiences are hosted in beautiful Thai teak pavilions, with Thai dancing and traditional music as you enjoy Northern specialities while seated at floor level.