There are so many reasons why we love Chiang Mai and why it has become our favourite city in Thailand. Chiang Mai is calm and tranquil; a complete world away from the traffic-chaos and urban sprawl that is Thailand’s capital Bangkok.
We spent time in both the old city and in the fun, hipster neighbourhood of Nimman. We really like both areas but Nimman is where we ultimately feel at home. It’s young and refreshing, fun and trendy, yet still full of Thai culture and tradition. If you want to be close to good food, hipster cafes, and an emerging street food scene then this is the area to be.
This is the ultimate food guide to our favourite places to eat and delicious foods to try in Chiang Mai. Most of them are located in Nimman or close to the old city walls, making it easy for you to access by foot or short songthaew ride.
Tong Tem Toh
My friend Tammy introduced us to Tong Tem Toh. It’s a foodie staple in Chiang Mai with the queues to prove it. This is the place to try local Lanna meals or if you’re a meat lover. They’re known for their varieties of pork which they BBQ in open-air. It’s a fun experience in a larger group because you can order a bunch of different dishes to share. Portions are generous and even the cost is unreal – our bill came out to 1,500 baht for 5 people – just a little under $10 bucks a person. The grilled northern Thai sausage and Burmese pork curry are incredible.
Where: 11 Nimmanhaeiman Road, Soi 13. Get here before 6pm if you want to be guaranteed a table otherwise you’ll need to grab a number to queue.
Where Tong Tem Toh is all about the pork, this spot is all about the chicken. I know a lot of people go to SP Chicken but I prefer Cherng Doi between Soi 2 and 4. The kai yang nung krob (roasted chicken) is juicy and crispy served with delicious tamarind sauce for dipping. The portions are smaller than Tong Tem Toh but it’s cheap enough that you can order more than once (dishes are all under 80 baht). The staff speak little English but you can request an English menu. Write down your order on a piece of paper then hand it to the waiter. The iced tea is excellent and the traditional Thai iced coffee is one of the best I ever tasted.
Where: Soi Sukasem in Nimman
The Burmese Restaurant & Library is a well-known favourite for authentic Burmese dishes. There are no prices on the menu but it is one of the cheapest places to eat with dishes around 40 baht. If you get there late morning you can watch them churn out their different batches of curries. Grab a street-side seat and order the tasty and crunchy tea leaf salad. It’s so good you’ll want to eat two.
Where: 28 Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 13
Asians know how to do noodle soups. A boat noodle with healthy greens like kale, glass or rice noodles, and hearty slices of beef makes for a typical and light Thai lunch. At RodYiam, the founder immigrated to Thailand from China on his bicycle, selling his noodles along his route.
I love quirky, open Thai street kitchens.
Where: 26 Nimmarnhemin Road, Soi 11. The beef served here is a beef brisket which is not always the leanest but the marbling infuses the meat and creates an amazingly intense beef bone broth. (100 baht).
Khao Soi Islam
Chiang Mai is the best place to eat khao soi. That’s because it’s primarily a northern dish so you’ll be hard-pressed to find it anywhere else. Khao soi is made with beef or chicken, crispy egg noodles, and coconut milk in a spicy curry-like sauce. It’s a must-eat dish when you’re in northern Thailand.
Where: Soi 1, Charoenprathet Road near the Night Bazaar, or these family-run restaurants for more authentic khao soi in Chiang Mai.
Where: Charoen Prathet Lane 1, near the Night Bazaar. (50 baht).
If you’re feeling home sick for beer, the Beer Lab is not to be missed. Chill on their huge street-side patio while chugging down one of 200 beers from around the world.
Where: Nimmanhaemin Road, Soi 12
Mrs. Pa’s Smoothie Cart
The first smoothie I had in Thailand was strawberry and passion fruit from the famous Mrs. Pa. For 20 baht (¢0.63) you get a blend of fresh fruit personally picked by her from different markets and vendors each morning. Instead of store bought sugar syrup filled with chemicals, she blends her own homemade version to sweeten her smoothies.
Where: Look for Mrs. Pa’s cart in front of the 7-11, at the South Gate night market in the old city (except Sundays).
If you want a change from Thai food…
The Salsa Kitchen
The most amazing Mexican food is at The Salsa Kitchen. They make their own homemade salsas and the portions are hefty. What to order? Everything! If you don’t want to choose just one, ask for the sampling platter (it’s not on the written menu). Dan I and ate here at least twice a week.
Where: 26/4 Huaykaew Road, Nimman
Ploen Ruedee Market
The Ploen Ruedee Market is a fun spot to listen to live music and feast on different food in one open area. What I love most is that there is only food one stall for each kind of cuisine so there is lots of variety, from Thai to international. Open daily from 6pm.
Where: Near the night bazaar, opposite the mosque.
The best shawarma and hummus in Chiang Mai. Opens at 6pm but they’re never fully ready for orders until 7pm.
Where: Inside the Kalare Night Bazaar.
A craft burger joint that started as a food truck. There are fun community tables for socializing on the rooftop patio and unlike other pretentious gourmet burger places, you don’t have to pay extra for a side of fries here (which boggles mind elsewhere, it’s like serving a hot dog without the bun, don’t they just go together?) Choose from three different kinds of cheese burgers, pulled pork or vegan. Don’t miss this spot if you’re a burger fan.
Where: 14 Nimmanhemin, Soi 17
Food truck serving up delicious avocado mushroom burgers.
Where: He usually parks around Nimmarnhemin Road, Soi 3.
Larb (also spelt laarb or lab) is a northern Thai dish of spicy ground meat, usually chicken. This food truck serves it up in unique burger form.
Where: Also around Nimmarnhemin Road, Soi 3.
Did I miss a good food spot?
Share your tips for where to eat in Chiang Mai in the comments below.