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The 14 Essential Restaurants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Where to find pork curries, spicy fried chicken, and bowl after bowl of the creamy regional specialty, khao soi, in the calm, creative haven of northern Thailand

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The quaint northern Thai city of Chiang Mai is a popular home base for visitors looking to hike, ride elephants, zip line, and do all manner of outdoor excursions in the surrounding countryside. But Chiang Mai’s old town is an attraction all its own, with a collection of ancient Buddhist temples, aged shophouses, and a handful of wooden homes, all surrounded by a crumbling brick wall and moat. It’s devastatingly charming, largely walkable, and home to some of the best eateries and cafes in the whole of Thailand.

Even if you think you know Thai food, eating your way through Chiang Mai might have you wondering if you’re in the right country. With dishes not found elsewhere in Thailand, the cuisine here is characterized by mild but intense flavors, smoky grilled meats, and rich curry noodle soups — not to mention a decent spread of foreign food and a thriving cafe scene. Best of all, meals here cost a fraction of what they would in Bangkok, and the vibe is almost assertively casual and easy. And with influences from China, the Muslim world, Myanmar, and the region’s so-called hill tribes, Chang Mai’s eating scene is unlike anything else in the country.

Editor’s Note: Eater is not updating international maps at this time given disruptions to global travel during the COVID-19 crisis.

Prices per person, excluding alcohol:
$ = Less than Bt500 (15 USD)
$$ = Bt550 - Bt1,500 (16 - 40 USD)
$$$ = Bt1,500 - Bt2,500 (40 - 66 USD)
$$$$ = Bt2,500 (66 USD) and up

Austin Bush is a Thailand-based writer and photographer. He’s the author of several books, including The Food of Northern Thailand.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center

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Is it the most utterly delicious meal in the city? Not exactly. Is it a quintessential Chiang Mai experience? 100 percent. The northern Thai equivalent of dinner theater couples deliciously pan-regional meals — think slightly sweet, northern Thai-style pork curry, chile-based dips, as well as a couple central Thai dishes — with traditional dance, and has been entertaining both local and foreign visitors for the last 40 years. [$$]

A traditional spread at Old Chiangmai
Old Chiangmai Cultural Center

SP Chicken (ไก่ย่างเอสพี)

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It’s not specifically Chiang Mai-style, but the rotisserie chicken here — which was the inspiration for the version served at Portland’s famed Pok Pok — is delicious regardless of provenance. Couple the dish with a basket of sticky rice and a plate of spicy-tart papaya salad and you’ve got yourself a crash-course in the food of Isan, Thailand’s northeastern region. [$]

A serving platter of roast chicken, beside a bowl of rice, side salad, and sauces on a dark table cloth
Rotisserie chicken
Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Akha Ama

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Among Thais, Chiang Mai is renowned for its cafes, and at the top of the heap is Akha Ama. Quite possibly one of the best-value coffee shops in the world (an excellent cappuccino will set you back less than $2), it also serves a good cause: The beans here are grown in the remote corners of neighboring Chiang Rai province, providing a needed economic resource for northern Thailand’s minority groups. [$]

Akha Ama
Courtesy Akha Ama

Mit Mai (ร้านมิตรใหม่)

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The back hills of Chiang Mai province are home to remote communities of Yunnanese Chinese, and for several decades now, this restaurant has brought their cuisine to the city folk. Go for dishes with uniquely Chinese ingredients such as pleasantly salty Yunnan-style air-dried ham, wok-seared greens, spicy and fragrant DIY salads, and for contrast, one of the typically mild, comforting soups. [$]

Wok-seared Yunnanese dish at Mit Mai
Austin Bush

Blue Diamond Natural Herbal Products

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While hostel-style sleeping may not be your thing, it’s still possible to dip your toe in the Chiang Mai backpacker world at this longstanding, delightfully granola spot. Hearty, healthy breakfasts; decent baked goods; and appropriately vegetarian-friendly options abound, and there’s even an attached shop selling pesticide-free fruit. [$]

Midnight Chicken

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One of Chiang Mai’s most legendary eateries is this shack-like shrine to bubbling oil. Choose your deep-fried protein — chicken, pork belly, sun-dried beef, among others — and enjoy it with a mountain of steaming sticky rice, a plate of crunchy pickled mustard greens, and a spicy northern Thai-style dip. As the name suggests, this is for late-night noshing only. [$]

The queue at Midnight Chicken
Austin Bush

Phuang Thong (ร้านอาหารพวงทอง)

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You probably didn’t come to Chiang Mai to eat Bangkok-style food, but this homey restaurant is putting out dishes that are better than most places in the capital. There’s no English-language menu, but you’re better off chatting with the friendly owners to sculpt a meal that includes dishes such as a mouth-puckeringly tart soup of garlic and shrimp, a rich dish of pork braised with soy sauce, or a heady, fragrant “dry” fish curry. [$$]

Khao Soi Muslim Noodles

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Khao soi, wheat noodles in a curry broth, is Chiang Mai’s signature dish, and there are dozens of places in the city to get it. But a good starting point is the pleasantly mild and creamy (from coconut milk) Muslim version of the dish, sold here for several decades now. If you need a bit more oomph, opt for the excellent mutton biryani, served with fragrant yellow rice, a tiny bowl of savory broth, and a sweet-and-sour dip. [$]

The signature soup at Khao Soi Muslim Noodles
Austin Bush

The Good View

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For decades, this rambling riverside shack has entertained and satiated just about everybody who’s ever resided in or been to Chiang Mai. The menu spans every corner of Thailand (and has some Western, Japanese, and vegetarian dishes, too), but with that superlative view, the breeze, and live music, it’s really all about the atmosphere and the classic Chiang Mai vibe. [$]

Khao Soi Lam Duan - Fa Ham (ข้าวซอยลำดวน (ฟ้าฮ่าม))

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Khao soi completists can’t miss this one, one of the city’s most famous (and longstanding) venues for the dish. The bowls served here are rich and fragrant, and unlike most places, which stick to chicken or beef, the options here include pork or even shrimp. A slew of other northern Thai dishes and snacks are also available, making this a great one-stop shop for northern Thai flavors. [$]

Khao Soi Lam Duan - Fa Ham
Austin Bush

Laap Kao Cham Chaa

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If it’s good enough for crowds of rowdy locals on a nightly basis (or notable foreigners, including Andy Ricker and the late Anthony Bourdain), it’s good enough for you. This raucous open-air place is a safe bet for just about anything local. Just point at whatever happens to be on the grill, because it’s bound to be good; go for the fragrant northern Thai-style laap, a dish of finely minced meat, or impress your friends with tam som oh, a pounded salad of pomelo (a grapefruit-like citrus) and crab paste, a uniquely northern Thai condiment. [$]

Laap Kao Cham Chaa
Austin Bush

Khanom Jeen San Pa Khoi (ขนมจีนสันป่าข่อย)

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After khao soi, Chiang Mai’s other noodle superstar is khanom jeen nam ngiaw, thin, round rice noodles topped with a tart and savory broth of pork ribs and tomatoes. Open since 1977, this market-bound stall offers a hearty version of the dish, plus a variety of other curries served over the eponymous noodles. [$]

Khanom Jeen San Pa Khoi
Austin Bush

Khao Soi Prince (ข้าวซอยปรินส์)

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Sophisticated slurpers (like me, and those willing to make the drive 20 minutes north of the city) know that Prince does the absolute tastiest khao soi in Chiang Mai. The coconut milk-spiked broth is mild and meaty, with a subtle backbone of dried spices, and each bowl features the superlative wheat-and-egg noodles that are still made in-house, as well as a crunchy, slightly sweet side of pickled mustard greens. [$]

Arguably the best khao soi in Chiang Mai, at Khao Soi Prince
Austin Bush

Huean Jai Yong (เฮือนใจ๋ยอง)

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It’s a schlep to get here from downtown Chiang Mai, but this charmingly refurbished wooden building is one of the best all-around destinations for northern Thai food. Everything is tasty, but it’s a particularly good place to try dishes you might not encounter elsewhere, like jin som mok khai, fermented pork grilled with egg in a banana leaf package, or any of the nam phrik, northern Thai-style dips. [$]

Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center

A traditional spread at Old Chiangmai
Old Chiangmai Cultural Center

Is it the most utterly delicious meal in the city? Not exactly. Is it a quintessential Chiang Mai experience? 100 percent. The northern Thai equivalent of dinner theater couples deliciously pan-regional meals — think slightly sweet, northern Thai-style pork curry, chile-based dips, as well as a couple central Thai dishes — with traditional dance, and has been entertaining both local and foreign visitors for the last 40 years. [$$]

A traditional spread at Old Chiangmai
Old Chiangmai Cultural Center

SP Chicken (ไก่ย่างเอสพี)

A serving platter of roast chicken, beside a bowl of rice, side salad, and sauces on a dark table cloth
Rotisserie chicken
Rachel Leah Blumenthal

It’s not specifically Chiang Mai-style, but the rotisserie chicken here — which was the inspiration for the version served at Portland’s famed Pok Pok — is delicious regardless of provenance. Couple the dish with a basket of sticky rice and a plate of spicy-tart papaya salad and you’ve got yourself a crash-course in the food of Isan, Thailand’s northeastern region. [$]

A serving platter of roast chicken, beside a bowl of rice, side salad, and sauces on a dark table cloth
Rotisserie chicken
Rachel Leah Blumenthal

Akha Ama

Akha Ama
Courtesy Akha Ama

Among Thais, Chiang Mai is renowned for its cafes, and at the top of the heap is Akha Ama. Quite possibly one of the best-value coffee shops in the world (an excellent cappuccino will set you back less than $2), it also serves a good cause: The beans here are grown in the remote corners of neighboring Chiang Rai province, providing a needed economic resource for northern Thailand’s minority groups. [$]

Akha Ama
Courtesy Akha Ama

Mit Mai (ร้านมิตรใหม่)

Wok-seared Yunnanese dish at Mit Mai
Austin Bush

The back hills of Chiang Mai province are home to remote communities of Yunnanese Chinese, and for several decades now, this restaurant has brought their cuisine to the city folk. Go for dishes with uniquely Chinese ingredients such as pleasantly salty Yunnan-style air-dried ham, wok-seared greens, spicy and fragrant DIY salads, and for contrast, one of the typically mild, comforting soups. [$]

Wok-seared Yunnanese dish at Mit Mai
Austin Bush

Blue Diamond Natural Herbal Products

While hostel-style sleeping may not be your thing, it’s still possible to dip your toe in the Chiang Mai backpacker world at this longstanding, delightfully granola spot. Hearty, healthy breakfasts; decent baked goods; and appropriately vegetarian-friendly options abound, and there’s even an attached shop selling pesticide-free fruit. [$]

Midnight Chicken

The queue at Midnight Chicken
Austin Bush

One of Chiang Mai’s most legendary eateries is this shack-like shrine to bubbling oil. Choose your deep-fried protein — chicken, pork belly, sun-dried beef, among others — and enjoy it with a mountain of steaming sticky rice, a plate of crunchy pickled mustard greens, and a spicy northern Thai-style dip. As the name suggests, this is for late-night noshing only. [$]

The queue at Midnight Chicken
Austin Bush

Phuang Thong (ร้านอาหารพวงทอง)

You probably didn’t come to Chiang Mai to eat Bangkok-style food, but this homey restaurant is putting out dishes that are better than most places in the capital. There’s no English-language menu, but you’re better off chatting with the friendly owners to sculpt a meal that includes dishes such as a mouth-puckeringly tart soup of garlic and shrimp, a rich dish of pork braised with soy sauce, or a heady, fragrant “dry” fish curry. [$$]

Khao Soi Muslim Noodles

The signature soup at Khao Soi Muslim Noodles
Austin Bush

Khao soi, wheat noodles in a curry broth, is Chiang Mai’s signature dish, and there are dozens of places in the city to get it. But a good starting point is the pleasantly mild and creamy (from coconut milk) Muslim version of the dish, sold here for several decades now. If you need a bit more oomph, opt for the excellent mutton biryani, served with fragrant yellow rice, a tiny bowl of savory broth, and a sweet-and-sour dip. [$]

The signature soup at Khao Soi Muslim Noodles
Austin Bush

The Good View

For decades, this rambling riverside shack has entertained and satiated just about everybody who’s ever resided in or been to Chiang Mai. The menu spans every corner of Thailand (and has some Western, Japanese, and vegetarian dishes, too), but with that superlative view, the breeze, and live music, it’s really all about the atmosphere and the classic Chiang Mai vibe. [$]

Khao Soi Lam Duan - Fa Ham (ข้าวซอยลำดวน (ฟ้าฮ่าม))

Khao Soi Lam Duan - Fa Ham
Austin Bush

Khao soi completists can’t miss this one, one of the city’s most famous (and longstanding) venues for the dish. The bowls served here are rich and fragrant, and unlike most places, which stick to chicken or beef, the options here include pork or even shrimp. A slew of other northern Thai dishes and snacks are also available, making this a great one-stop shop for northern Thai flavors. [$]

Khao Soi Lam Duan - Fa Ham
Austin Bush

Laap Kao Cham Chaa

Laap Kao Cham Chaa
Austin Bush

If it’s good enough for crowds of rowdy locals on a nightly basis (or notable foreigners, including Andy Ricker and the late Anthony Bourdain), it’s good enough for you. This raucous open-air place is a safe bet for just about anything local. Just point at whatever happens to be on the grill, because it’s bound to be good; go for the fragrant northern Thai-style laap, a dish of finely minced meat, or impress your friends with tam som oh, a pounded salad of pomelo (a grapefruit-like citrus) and crab paste, a uniquely northern Thai condiment. [$]

Laap Kao Cham Chaa
Austin Bush

Khanom Jeen San Pa Khoi (ขนมจีนสันป่าข่อย)

Khanom Jeen San Pa Khoi
Austin Bush

After khao soi, Chiang Mai’s other noodle superstar is khanom jeen nam ngiaw, thin, round rice noodles topped with a tart and savory broth of pork ribs and tomatoes. Open since 1977, this market-bound stall offers a hearty version of the dish, plus a variety of other curries served over the eponymous noodles. [$]

Khanom Jeen San Pa Khoi
Austin Bush

Khao Soi Prince (ข้าวซอยปรินส์)

Arguably the best khao soi in Chiang Mai, at Khao Soi Prince
Austin Bush

Sophisticated slurpers (like me, and those willing to make the drive 20 minutes north of the city) know that Prince does the absolute tastiest khao soi in Chiang Mai. The coconut milk-spiked broth is mild and meaty, with a subtle backbone of dried spices, and each bowl features the superlative wheat-and-egg noodles that are still made in-house, as well as a crunchy, slightly sweet side of pickled mustard greens. [$]

Arguably the best khao soi in Chiang Mai, at Khao Soi Prince
Austin Bush

Huean Jai Yong (เฮือนใจ๋ยอง)

It’s a schlep to get here from downtown Chiang Mai, but this charmingly refurbished wooden building is one of the best all-around destinations for northern Thai food. Everything is tasty, but it’s a particularly good place to try dishes you might not encounter elsewhere, like jin som mok khai, fermented pork grilled with egg in a banana leaf package, or any of the nam phrik, northern Thai-style dips. [$]

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