We recently realized that the single biggest driver behind the locations we choose for vacations is the local cuisine. We visited Vietnam last December because of our deep love of Pho. We travelled to Germany for the beer. We made a trip to Southern Thailand mostly so we could order a peanut sauce and noodles dish that we remembered from a different visit last year. We recently nixed Laos from our travel list because we realized we probably wouldn’t like the food. So it should come as no surprise to you that we’re mainly living in Thailand because we love the food here.
We have a lot of people coming to visit us here in Chiang Mai in the next two months (Miles, Jenn and Lindsey, Pio, Becca and Albert, I’m talking to you!), so I thought it would be appropriate to post about what we think are the best restaurants in Chiang Mai. Most of them are out west in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood where we spend most of our time. But I also think that food in the Old City (the area more popular with tourists) tends to be more expensive and less delicious. That combination makes me shudder and want to cry. If you prefer to pay more money for worse food, you are never allowed to visit me. Ever.
We narrowed our list of the Best Restaurants in Chiang Mai down to just 8 restaurants, all shown on the map below. Read on for details!
The 40 Baht Spot (a.k.a. Organic Vegetables or O-Veg)
The Scoop: Consistently delicious food for a bargain! We eat dinner here almost every night, and we almost moved away from Chiang Mai forever when they were closed for a whole week. An English menu is available. (Note that this place isn’t actually called The 40 Baht Spot. Rather, we gave it that nickname because all chicken/pork/tofu dishes are just 40 Baht. We don’t know the real name.)
The Hours: Open for Lunch & Dinner daily except Sunday
The Best Dishes: Red Chili Paste Fried Rice with Pork (40 Baht), Fried Glass Noodles with Egg, Vegetables and Pork (40 Baht), Yellow Curry Fried Rice with Pork (40 Baht), Fried Mixed Vegetables with Pork (40 Baht).
The Location Hints: Look for the sign with “Organic Vegetables” on it, or for the blue and white umbrella. It’s a few doors west of the Burmese Restaurant and Library, before you reach Anchan.
Pun Pun Vegetarian
The Scoop: Delicious, beautifully presented food for a moderate price tag. Beware, sometimes it really lives up to it’s “Slow Food” label. We avoid this place whenever it’s busy – it’s best to arrive before 11:45am if you want speedy service. Menus are available in English and Chinese (and obviously also Thai).
The Hours: Daily 8am-5pm, closed Wednesdays. They often close early because they are “out of food” too.
The Best Dishes: Any Curry, but mostly we love Massaman Curry, Yellow Curry and Penang Curry (all are 60 Baht), Som Tam Thai (40 Baht), Salad Pak Polamai (70 Baht).
Cherng Doi Chicken
The Scoop: Widest variety of Som Tam available in all of Chiang Mai – not to be missed if you’re a Som Tam fanatic like me. An English menu with tons of photos is available.
The Hours: Daily 11am-8:30pm, closed Mondays.
The Best Dishes: Roast Chicken (60 Baht), Steak Jaew (60 Baht), Tam Khao Pod (corn Som Tam, 40 Baht), Tam Pol La Mai (cucumber Som Tam, 50 Baht). Don’t forget sticky rice (10 Baht)!
Pad Thai Family
The Scoop: An awesome family serving awesome pad thai for an awesome price. All you need to do is walk up and say “One, please!”
The Hours: Open most days at 6pm until they’re out of noodles. It seems like they are closed one day per week, but it’s entirely unpredictable which day. I have a hunch it’s usually a Saturday or Sunday, but I’ve been bitten on weekdays too.
The Location Hints: These folks set up every night on the South side of Suthep Road, right next to the pedestrian stoplight a block or two west of Wat Suan Dok. See the map above for exact location.
The Scoop: Arguably the healthiest food you can find in Chiang Mai, this vegetarian restaurant is always changing their menu to serve what’s in season. This is my favorite spot to take out of town guests willing to spend more than $2 on a meal. Excellent English spoken here.
The Hours: Open Tues-Sat 11:30am-8:30pm
The Best Dishes: Their menu is always changing, but we loved the Pumpkin Red Curry (95 Baht) and Fried Rice Anchan (95 Baht) during our last visit.
The Website: Facebook
Siri Mankalajarn Food Stall
The Scoop: We call this place the “Siri Mankalajarn Dive” for a reason. I’m pretty sure the people running this food stop hate us, or are just not nice to any foreigners, but DAMN they make a delicious Pad See Iew. They don’t speak a lot of English here, but they have an English menu with pictures.
The Hours: Open daily from around 10:30am until 8pm or so.
The Best Dishes: Pad See Iew (30 Baht) and Kao Soi Kai (30 Baht)
The Location Hints: This is the first food spot South of Kaweh Cafe on the West side of Siri Mankalajarn.
The Suthep Soup Spot
The Scoop: These folks serve up the best bowl of soup in Chiang Mai! Everyone who works here is super friendly, and they always have someone around who speaks English.
The Hours: Open daily for dinner, but they seem to start closing up at about 7 or 7:30pm. (I’m not sure about lunch, we’re never over there during that time.)
The Best Dishes: Order the soup from the photo below, just point at the picture on the menu that looks like the photo below. It’s 30 Baht.
The Location Hints: We’re not sure what this place is actually called. See the map for the exact location. It’s on Suthep Road, and it’s the 2nd place down from the corner.
The Scoop: For those times when you just NEED to have pizza, this spot is a good choice. We walked all over Chiang Mai and did the math for you – if you order the large pizza, you’re getting the best price per square inch you can find. We prefer pepperoni.
The Hours: Open Daily from 5-11pm.
The Best Dishes: Pepperoni Pizza! With Tip, we usually blow 400 Baht here on a large pepperoni pizza and a large Chang beer.
The Location Hints: Why Not? has a big footprint. You can find it from both Nimman Soi 11 or Nimman Soi 13.
The Website: Facebook
We Want to Hear From You!
Did we leave any of the best restaurants in Chiang Mai off of our list? Do you have any suggestions for additions? Leave us a comment if you do!