When it comes to food, there is something for everyone in Chiang Mai. You can feast on street stall meat skewers for about 30 cents a pop, gorge on noodle bowls or find a complete upscale Italian feast or a crunchy vegan meal.
We had no problem eating street food in Chiang Mai. While you should be wary of vendors that don’t seem to have a lot of business, or ones with food lying out in the sun, the vast majority of street food is safe. But be smart about it; if you see people eating in a place it is usually a safe bet. Here is a list of fantastic places to eat in Chiang Mai if you find yourself stuck for a recommendation.
*All restaurant are listed by their name as it appears on google maps, unless otherwise noted. Make sure to check out our map at the bottom of the post.
Local Northern-Thai (Lanna) Cuisine:
Huan Muan Jai – Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm, closed on Wednesdays
Walking into Huan Muan Jai is almost like stepping back into the age of Lanna rule. This place cooks up authentic, northern Thai dishes that you can enjoy alongside locals, in a large multi-room traditional wooden house with a peaceful jungle garden. The menu has pictures and English descriptions that will help you know what to order. Some standout dishes are the Gaeng Hang Lay, a pork curry stewed with ginger, and Khao Ghan Jin, rice mixed with pork blood and steamed in a banana leaf. Don’t worry, it’s fully cooked through so the pork blood really just adds color.
TongTem Toh – Open daily from 11 am to 9 pm
TongTemToh is a Nimman joint popular with tourists and locals alike. There is always a queue for a table at Tongtem Toh but once you try their food you’ll see why. To speed things up they encourage you to order outside while you wait. I tried the sweet leaf soup with ant eggs and fermented pork steamed in a banana leaf with egg.
I loved the fermented pork! It was tangy and sour, as to be expected, but had a sweet juicy finish to it. I didn’t think the ant egg soup was anything worth getting again, but it was certainly a new, exotic dish to try. It was made with a clear broth that included tomatoes, a green leafy vegetable, glass noodles, spices and ant eggs. The ant eggs in the soup were actually sweet if eaten alone, but when eaten with everything else the taste was mostly masked. It’s a very light dish, but definitely packs a punch!
If you are eating with a group, I’d recommend ordering the appetizer platter. It comes with two chili dips, nam prik nam and ong, fermented pork, sai ua, and veggies and pork rind.
Solao Chiangmai – Open daily from 10 am to 8 pm
Salao serves up delicious, spicy, Isaan, which is the region and cuisine in the north-east of the Thailand. When I saw locals riding their mopeds through the center of the dining area to park in the back, I had a feeling this place would be authentic. They have an extensive menu of meats, fish, soups and of course Som tam salads. Their pork laab and fried chicken was my favorite. Rachel had their vegetarian mushroom soup and although it was the spiciest dish she had in all of Thailand, she claims it was also one of the best.
Lunch Stall in Nimman Neighborhood (not on Google Maps) – At the corner of Sirimungklajarn Rd and Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 9 | Open daily from 10 am until 2 pm or when they run out of food.
Some of the best experiences are the ones you stumble upon. One of my favorite places to eat was a small cart I came across on Siri Mangkalajarn Road, next to the Roastniyom Coffee. After 3 pm you won’t be able to tell this place serves food as it will look like a pile of abandoned furniture. Between 10 am and 2 pm you’ll find a constant stream of locals pulling up on the sidewalk for lunch. It is hard to give recommendations of what to order because the main dishes change daily. Typically, they serve several chicken and pork dishes cooked up with different vegetables and a variety of seasonings. For 35 THB, you can get a plate of rice with two entrees. May I add that the fried sesame chicken drumsticks are some of the best I’ve ever had! Just keep in mind, it is important to get there early before they run out of food.
The best noodles in all of Chiang Mai
กาดหนมเส้น Kadnomsen – Open daily from 9 am to 6 pm, except Wednesdays
Tucked away in the back streets of the Santitham area, north of the Old City, Kadnomsen has a welcoming atmosphere that will lure you in. They offer an extensive menu, but they are known for their noodles, especially their Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao which is sometimes referred to as the Thai-style bolognese. Their Khao Soi was also full of deep delicious curry flavors and packs a spicy punch. They serve the dish on a wooden tray with a hole in the middle for your bowl. If you find yourself in this neighborhood, it’s a sure bet for a tasty, traditional noodle meal. They also have some great vegetarian options for all the non-meat eaters out there.
Khao Soi Khun Yai – Open daily from 10 am to 2 pm, except Sundays
You’ll be hard pressed to find better Khao Soi in Chiang Mai than Khao Soi Khun Yai. This unassuming joint serves up the best Khao Soi I’ve had in the city. Plus, it’s only 35 THB a bowl. That’s about one US dollar folks, you can’t beat that! To find the restaurant head towards the south side of Sri Poom Road (the inner canal road on the northern edge of the Old City). You could easily pass by this joint and mistake it for an empty parking lot. The main lady running the show is incredibly friendly, always smiling and is happy to help you. They are open from 10 am- 2p m everyday except Sunday. However, they’re known to run out of food, so make sure not to wait until 1:50 to show up!
Rod Yiam Kitchen – Open daily from 10:30 am to 8 pm
The Kuai tiao nuea pueai, beef noodle soup, is this restaurant’s specialty. While their noodle bowls are somewhat pricey (by Thai standards) at 100 THB a pop, it is worth every penny! They serve Khao Soi and other traditional Thai dishes, but the Kuai tiao nuea pueai, melt-in-your-mouth beef, is the way to go. The beef is almost pink in color, but it is incredibly tender and has the perfect amount of texture. I recommend ordering your beef bowl with Sen Lek (thin rice noodles) as I found the alternative, Ba Mee (egg noodles) somewhat underwhelming
Khao Soi Halal – Open daily from 7 am to 9 pm
Khao Soi Halal is located on Halal Street, the hub of the local Muslim community in Chiang Mai. Although they are located right near the bustling Night Bazaar, once you step into their shop, it’ll feel like you’re miles away from the commotion. Khao Soi Halal is run by a few old ladies who are nothing but smiles. They live in the house behind the shop and you can often see them sitting down for a family dinner. This humble khao soi joint serves no pork and alcohol, but it offers a great escape in the middle of one of the most congested areas in Chiang Mai.
Chicken options in a pork dominated city
Chicken Rice Koyi – Open daily from 7:30 am to 3 pm, except Wednesdays
If there were a perfect lunch place in Chiang Mai this might very well be it. All you have to say is, ‘Neung’, ‘one please’ and you will be presented with simple, but delicious, chicken. The woman in charge of this joint is so proud of her food and for good reason. She prepares the softest chicken breast slices, the fluffiest rice (not sticky though), a silky clear soup on the side and, the x-factor, her farang-friendly chili sauce (suitable for western palates). The meal is not overly exotic but you’ll find locals and visitors alike chowing down all day long. If you’d like, you can also get fried chicken instead of the baked or grilled options.
Cherng Doi Roast Chicken – Open daily from 11 am to 10 pm, except Mondays
Tucked away on a side street off crowded Nimman road, Cherng Doi Roast Chicken serves up some of the best roast chicken I’ve have ever tasted. The restaurant has a great garden seating area with no more than ten tables. The dish to order here is Kai Yang, roasted chicken. And of course, I always add khao niao, sticky rice, on the side. Cherng Doi’s chicken comes out crispy on the outside and tender and warm on the inside. They always serve your kai yang with a delicious tamarind sauce. Make it a meal by adding one of their som tam salads or for the more adventurous eaters, one of their laab dishes, a spicy minced meat.
SP Chicken – Open daily from 10 am to 5 pm
SP Chicken’s unassuming location, on a half-deserted street in the Old City, makes it all the more exciting when you come across it. SP Chicken serves up the same Kai Yang special as Cherng Doi but you can order a whole or half portion, with bone-in. The tamarind sauces here are killer and really make the chicken amazing. What this place lacks in ambiance they make up for in flavor. This is an awesome spot to hit near the beginning of your trip because it certainly feels very local without being too exotic. It will ease you into a new food scene.
Chiang Mai, the city of pork
Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak (The Cowgirl) – Open daily from 5 pm until she runs out
A plate of the cowgirl’s Khao kha moo, stewed pork knuckle over rice, can’t be beaten. This establishment is located just outside the Chang Phuek Gate, (North Gate to Old City) and is a Chiang Mai institution that everyone should experience. Jay, the woman in the cowgirl hat, has been using the same master stock since the beginning of her business. Which means a portion of the first ingredients still remains in the current day broth! While it is nothing more than an ordinary street stall at the Chang Phuek Night Market, the cowgirl lady is known worldwide after Anthony Bourdain sought her out during his visit to Chiang Mai.
The dish she serves is Khao Kha Moo, which is braised pork over a bed of rice, a stew boiled egg and pickled greens on the side. I recommend going for the large as this is more like the normal size dish you would get in the States and only goes for 50 THB (less than $1.50) more than the smaller option. The Cowgirl opens at 5 pm every evening and you can expect the place to be crowded all night long. If there’s a line, don’t worry it moves fast.
BBQ pork shop – Open for dinner- no set time
You can smell the peppery mustard seed seasoning in the air from 100 yards away and it’s downright incredible. Smoky, juicy, and sweet all at the same time. This place is authentic. There are only a few tables and the old lady who runs the establishment will most likely be grilling an exotic assortment of pig parts right next to you. You can pick out what you want, she’ll weigh it and slice it up for you. This place is known for the pork but of course, you should eat your meat with some khao niao or even add a stir-fried dish. Grab 200 grams for 60 THB and enjoy a little Chiang Mai snack.
When you're homesick and need some familiar food
Food 4 Thought – Open from 8 am to 5 pm Sunday to Wednesday and from 8 am to 9 pm Thursday to Saturday
Food4thought serves up healthy, delicious, western style food. They offer everything from wraps and sandwiches to salads and soups. They have plenty of vegetarian options and pride themselves on not using preservatives. The atmosphere is definitely laid back and you should expect that the service is a bit slower than the typical lightning-fast Thai pace in other restaurants. While slightly out of the downtown area, I always found it a treat to get out to Food4thought for some relaxation.
Rustic & Blue – Open daily from 8:30 am to 9 pm
This stylish western joint serves breakfast all day, which is why I love it. I recommend sitting outside in their lovely, peaceful garden patio. It’s a great place to go at any point during the day. Rachel and I both got different variations of eggs benedict and thoroughly enjoyed every bite. Each plate was a unique twist on the classic benedict that used local ingredients. For western food in Thailand, you’re going to pay a premium. Rustic & Blue is no different. The prices were still reasonable, but definitely on the higher end compared to the cost of food at local Thai eateries.
Farm Story House – Open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 8 am to 7 pm and 8 am to on Saturday and Sunday. Closed on Wednesday
This quaint cafe serves up delicious home cooked, organic meals alongside their solid coffee and tea selection. I sat at the coffee bar and got to watch the barista pour his wisdom into each drink he made. Many of their entrees come with their organic multigrain rice, which was a nice break from the ordinary white rice I ate everywhere else in Thailand. Farm Story House is tucked away on, Rachadamnoen Road Soi 5, a quiet side street in the heart of the Old City. The street, which somehow avoids the hustle and bustle of nearly every other street in the area, is packed with small boutique B&Bs, yoga shops and small restaurants. Farm Story House fits right into the mix of inconspicuously charming and delightful establishments.
When you’re craving some veggies
Ji-Yay – Organic Vegetables- Open daily 8 am-8 pm except Sunday.
This hole in the wall shop quickly became another one of my favorite places to eat in Chiang Mai. The interior feels like the quintessential Thai restaurant, with plastic chairs and some odd advertising on the walls. Their menu mostly consists of stir-fried dishes, but they also pool their resources with the restaurant next door, Zaab Nimman, who will make some soup dishes and shuttle it over to Ji-Yay customers. Most dishes go for 60 THB and come with plain rice and plenty of spice.
MORE TO COME….