Eating out in Chiang Mai was easier compared to Bangkok because Chiang Mai was a smaller city. In fact, we just have to walk 10 meters and we could get papaya salad made fresh by our neighbor in his home-turned-restaurant-at-night. Beside his house, another neighbor sells banana and vegetable fritters. In Chiang Mai, you walk just a distance of five meters and another restaurant, diner, or stall selling food will greet you. Here are my top recommendations.
Restaurants & Diners
Our first Chiang Mai meal came from Into The Woods — recommended by Joy, the owner of our accommodation, Baan Ploy-In. We were looking for someplace to eat and work and she said Into The Woods is perfect because it has wi-fi, coffee, and food. And true enough, yes, it was. It was just less than five minute walk from the guesthouse. The set meal, which does not come with an egg (you will pay for it separately) was very filling, and, typical of Thailand, very affordable. The smoothie though was !!!! All strawberries. Living in Cebu in central Philippines means we don’t even have supply of strawberry jam year-round. We ended up not working at all, but instead just savouring the food we ate.
Baan Buri was a discovery on our second time in Ratchadamnoen Rd. It was our second day and the last day in Chiang Mai when I decided we check out the small shop named Baan Buri that sold local arts and crafts. While outside, I noticed a sign for a lunch set meal for 180baht. It was no longer lunch time but I asked the ladies inside if we can still get the set meal for dinner. She said we can but that we have to order before 6PM because they close at 6PM. We decided to look around first but came back just a few minutes after and decided to eat here. There were only two set meals and Joel and I ordered both. I had the green curry (because Joel has low tolerance for spicy). I actually loved the green curry. It was like a richer version of my favorite lauya and I loved the fact that they chop the lemongrass and I can actually eat it. Joel had chicken rice (which I didn’t get to taste) and all of our meals came with a bowl of salad, two spring rolls, and an iced drink. I got the butterfly pea drink, the same drink I had in The Unforgotten in one of our best finds in Bangkok’s Chinatown..
Chum Burgers was probably our favorite hangout in Chiang Mai. (Tip: the stand-alone burger shop did not have a name. Google Map was the one who said the name of the shop was Chum Burgers). This was along Prapokklao Rd., across Into the Woods. On our first night, we ate there. We loved the local reggae music and we loved watching the people. There is a futsal game almost every night. The burger is a build-your-own burger but it starts at 45baht (bun, patty lettuce, tomato and onion). The owner is our age and he would chat (if not busy playing computer games or serving other people).
Khao soi, which literally means “cut rice,” is a popular northern Thailand dish that is influenced by Burmese cooking. This dish came highly recommended by my sister-in-law who has visited Chiang Mai before and loved this dish. I was looking for this dish every where in Chiang Mai and I did not realize that one of the stores in Chang Puak serves this, and this even was their specialty. We only found out the store serves this dish when we went out on a Sunday lunch — and that was because the store was not covered by the many street stalls selling other food. This dish was very similar to the meal that came for free in our train ride to Phitsanulok on our way to Sukhothai, only I asked the owner to temper the spiciness of the soup. The soup was still thick and rich, but it was not my type. I thought it was good though because the chicken leg was generous, the noodles were buttery (the noodles were very delicious), and the soup serving was generous. I am the many-vegetable-noodle-soup person. The lady owner was also very pretty.
Cafes & Coffee Shops
I read about Akha Ama a few years ago in a magazine featuring coffee shops selling sustainable coffee. I researched about the place and read many excellent articles about the coffee shop and Lee Ayu’s coffee farming family. We visited their coffee shop one afternoon and found it small and deserted. We instantly loved it. I ordered their “black juice,” a cold brew of their local coffee, while Joel ordered a simple espresso. Their local coffee has a fruity note, like a tamarind, kinda sourish. I chatted with the young lady manning the counter and she let me try their coffee honey. It was very delicious that I brought home the last small container on sale. I also brought home their “dark coffee” variant and that coffee was GOOD.
We discovered Rich Cafe while walking along Sri Poom Road. I can’t even find this in Google Maps. We tried our luck because it was drizzling and we wanted something hot — coffee. The cafe is located at Soi 8, across Wat Khuan Khama. You might miss it because there are no big signboards indicating it as a cafe. In fact, it resembled a small hotel with lots of trees and leaves. It is my kind of cafe. Everything was green. It was peaceful. All that was lacking was a big daybed for reading and sipping coffee at the same time. And, they also serve scones, much to my delight.
Vieng Joom On was another place to check out in Chiang Mai recommended by my SIL. It is not a cafe nor a coffee shop. It is a teahouse. I believe there are two branches — one in Charoen Rajd Rd. near Wat Ket Kawam and another in one of Chiang Mai’s malls. We visited the one near Charoen Rajd Rd. because we wanted to check out Warorot Market, at the suggestion of the owner of Chum Burgers, and to find a store called Kasem’s Store to buy vanilla extract for Joel’s mom and sister. At VJO, we took a table outside of the glass-walled tearoom because the main tearoom was fully booked that day. The VJO overlooks Mae Ping river.
We spent our last afternoon at Rakuda Cafe, along Khang Ruan Jum Road. It’s a photo cafe — a place after Joel’s and my heart. At the front of the cafe is an open space with about four tables. There is a counter and two people were serving coffee and a few pastries. The cafe overlooks a soi (lane). At the back of the “coffee shop” is the photo shop. They have film photographs and there was a dark room. There were many books on film photography, including books on Thai film photographers, which included the King!
These are really humble breads and pastries from Mont Nom Sod in Nimman Road. But they were THE BEST. And their milk pudding. Creamy, but not eggy. It was super delicious especially when it’s served cold. This was a family-style bakery that we discovered during our walk along Nimman Rd. We went inside because we were curious and because we were kind of hungry. There was a growing line and everybody was ordering the milk pudding and Milo drinks.
Most of the street food we ate were at the Chang Puak night market because it was just across Baan Ploy-in. We ate there almost every night and my favorites would be both the fried and steamed chicken rice. My husband said the pork leg stew was delicious but he got a stomach discomfort the night he ate it. We also discovered crunchy curry puffs when we turned left from Arak Rd. These were better than our Pinoy empanadas and they were made by hand on site. It costs 5baht for 1 curry puff. There was vegetable, chicken, and pork.