Thailand has some of the world’s most delicious and inexpensive street food, and Chiang Mai does not disappoint. From the curries to the noodles to the soups your tastebuds will be delighted by finding eats on the street or in small restaurants frequented by locals.
If you have had your fill of street food and dealing with restaurants with nothing written in English and maybe are looking for cloth napkins, Chiang Mai offers that as well. The city offers a range of food options and experiences for any traveler. Below I have listed my favorites.
1. Khao Soi
The first meal I had in Chiang Mai was Khao Soi because by all accounts this is the dish that you must eat while in Chiang Mai. My friend Prat took me to Lamduon Fahrm Kaosoi, one of the oldest restaurants in town with over 70 years in the Khao Soi business and while the restaurant’s ambiance left a lot to be desired, I just knew it would be delicious. I could feel it in my bones.
I let Prat take the lead with ordering since I had no clue what I was looking at as the menu wasn’t in English. He ordered pork satay, a Thai classic served with a ground peanut sauce, and Khao Soi, the staple noodle dish with chicken so tender that it left the bones naked drowning in the soup on their own. This dish is a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chillies all served in curry sauce with coconut milk. Do not miss this traditional dish when you’re in town!
2. Lunch at Anatara
Listed as one of Chiang Mai’s top luxury hotels, Anatara Chiang Mai Resort and Spa was a simple and perfect choice for lunch on a sweltering afternoon in Thailand’s northern urban haven. As soon as I walked in Anatara, I fell in love with the modern and clean designs that filled the lobby.
The restaurant, the Service 1921, sits in the middle of the property. Opened in 1921 as the British Consulate of Chiang Mai, the restaurant still bears its colonial features. According to their website, “The Service 1921 reimagines this colonial era in an eccentric and fictitious reinvention of the British government’s secret intelligence service.”
The restaurant offers a variety of cuisines including Thai and Indian that are presented to you in an envelope as part of your “mission.” It is a really cute concept. There is also a very extensive cocktail menu. I went with a concoction called the Passion Sling, simply because it had passionfruit.
My friend Prat ordered the Pomelo Salad for me because he said I had to try it and I fell in love! I was scraping the bottom of the bowl! Be sure to order it. Pomelo is from the grapefruit family and is quite common in the region. I would steer clear of the Pad Thai. It was a bit bland and left a lot to be desired. The mutton curry and naan that Prat ordered was good as was the complimentary appetizer – rice cakes served with a peanut-based spread – from the chef. Overall, the food at the Service 1921 Restaurant is good, not great, but the service and atmosphere more than make up for the average flavors.
3. Palaad Tawanron
Perched high above Chiang Mai on Suthep Mountain is Palaad Tawanron, a restaurant that offers the perfect sunset views during a candlelight dinner. Though my dinner companion was not a romantic one, I can see how this is easily one of the most romantic places to eat in Chiang Mai.
We made reservations at this fairly popular restaurant though since it was low season the restaurant was not packed. Our table was next to the lake that sits below the restaurant with a perfect view of Chiang Mai and the impending sunset. Bonus: the restrooms also have an balcony from which you can watch the sunset or look at all of the sparkling lights of the city below.
When it comes to food, this restaurant has A LOT of options. It actually was kind of overwhelming, the menu was like a small epic novel. Luckily I was with my Thai friend Prat and he took the lead with ordering. We ordered several different dishes though only a few were worthy of mentioning here. The pineapple fried rice, which was served in a pineapple, was quite delightful and the chicken made it a filling dish. I had more than my fair share. We also shared a crispy fish that was to die for. Other than these two dishes I wasn’t floored by the food, but the ambiance and views are more than enough to send you to Palaad Tawanron.
One thing that everyone will agree about Chiang Mai, Thailand and southeast Asia in general is that it gets HOT. I’m talking sweltering, shirt sticking to your back within two hours of leaving the house, three showers a day hot. What better treat on a hot day than natural freshly made ice cream!
iBerry is a really cool ice cream shop that has a large garden that will bring out the child in all of us. The inside has unique features such as a light fixture made completely of colorful glass mugs and doors handles that are shaped like old school Super Soakers. The seating is comfortable and varies between comfy couches and vintage chairs.
Outside is a huge garden where you can enjoy your ice cream underneath the shade of one of the large trees while sitting in chairs better suited for my nine year old niece than me. You also can take fun pictures in the big heads and against some of the art sculptures that adorn the garden.
The homemade ice cream does not disappoint. They have a lot of interesting flavors that I was not brave enough to try, including: Tamarind Sorbet and Rose Apple Sorbet. I thoroughly enjoyed the mango and strawberry, but the garden is definitely the big draw here. If enjoying the ice cream and garden is not enough for you, you can also buy souvenirs in the shop adjacent to the garden.
Have you tried any of these Chiang Mai establishments? What is your favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai?