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I usually don’t write about food and I definitely don’t consider myself a foodie, but the dining in Chiang Mai is just too good to not write about. I often found myself eating, not because I was hungry, but just to eat. I was afraid if I passed something up, I would be missing out. Chiang Mai offers a large range of deliciousness. Here are my picks for everything from street food to fine dining:
If you find yourself in Chiang Mai on a weekend, definitely check out the night markets, or walking streets as they are commonly called. I personally preferred the one on Saturday night. I found Sunday to be somewhat overwhelming, although as far as food goes, the options are endless.
At first, I was somewhat apprehensive about eating the food of street vendors. I had heard stories about people getting sick and I was on a tight schedule. I decided it was a must-do though. How could I possibly write a guide to dining in Chiang Mai without trying the food it’s famous for? I decided I would just be smart about my choices. My advice would be to stick to vendors that are busy and where the food has a quick turnover. Also, make sure you are only eating items that are thoroughly cooked. I had some amazing fried spring rolls, a waffle smothered in peanut butter, and fried cheese balls, among other things.
If you are still unsure about eating street food, I recommend visiting the bottom level of One Nimman. One Nimman is a large shopping center with an area of enclosed market stalls that offer similar tastings to the food of street vendors. I guess it could be considered slightly upscale street food.
Cafes in Chiang Mai
Coffee culture in Chiang Mai is huge. Over the years, Thailand has gravitated from tea to coffee and nowadays you can not go a block in Chiang Mai without walking by a cafe. I already drink a lot of coffee, to begin with, so my intake became pretty ridiculous here. The cafes are cute and the coffee is insanely good, making them difficult to pass up.
I visited too many too many to count, but my favorites were Into the Woods and Akha Ama. Into the Woods, located within the Old City, is an adorable storybook-themed cafe, complete with faux trees and beautiful murals. It offers a small menu, plus some amazing pastries. I recommend trying their coconut pie!
Akha Ama is the cafe you go to for the actual coffee, not just the atmosphere. The farmers of the hill tribe, Akha, are some of the most skilled in Thailand. They are capable of growing many Arabica varieties and their coffees are truly unique. Akha Ama has two locations, one within the Old City and one right outside. Both offer free WiFi and are great places to get some work done.
Brunch in Chiang Mai
Brunch is my favorite meal. I absolutely love everything breakfast and can confidently say I know what I’m talking about in this area. Rustic & Blue is the perfect place to enjoy brunch in Chiang Mai. Breakfast is served all day and if someone in your party isn’t a brunch lover, they have other things as well.
They even have a handful of vegan options. Rustic & Blue provides a comfortable atmosphere, in addition to a great menu. My meal, a flavorful avocado toast with egg, was fantastic. They use fresh, local ingredients and it was a much-needed break from all the pastries, fried foods, and heavier things I had been consuming in days prior.
Traditional Thai Food
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m probably not the best judge in this category. When it comes to Thai food, it can be difficult for me to find things I can eat. I’m a pescatarian, meaning the only animal I consume comes from the ocean and I found much of the traditional Thai food to be very meat-heavy.
Dash, located in the Old City, came highly recommend to me and I decided to give it a go. It is somewhat hidden, off a small side street, but was fairly easy to find. Dash has a great patio and an extensive menu. I chose a couple of small appetizers and a noodle dish. All of which was great!
If you are looking for something a bit more modern, or just want something outside of the Old City, I recommend checking out Ginger Farm Kitchen. It’s located in the One Nimman center and the space is incredibly cute! It’s definitely not your traditional Thai food, but they do incorporate traditional flavors into their many healthy offerings, including many vegetarian dishes. They source a lot of organic ingredients and support small local farmers as well.
Fine Dining in Chiang Mai
David’s Kitchen is one of the top-rated restaurants on Trip Advisor and rightfully so. The food can be described as classic French cuisine with an Asian accent and it was absolutely delicious. Everything was perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection. My meal at David’s Kitchen ended up being one of my favorite on my entire trip to SE Asia.
Not only was the food amazing, but the service was impeccable. Living in Los Angeles, I am surrounded by great food, but it’s so very rare to find a place that serves great food and provides equally great service. The staff at David’s Kitchen was friendly, welcoming, and attentive.
The owners, David and his wife, Prom are the sweetest. David even followed up the next day via email with restaurant recommendations for the next county on my itinerary. The whole experience was lovely. You will definitely want to add David’s to your list when it comes to dining in Chiang Mai. Be sure to make a reservation in advance as it is often completely booked.
I hope this guide to dining in Chiang Mai is able to help you begin your food journey through the city. It is just a handful of my personal favorites, but I think it’s a good start. The options, when it comes to food in Chiang Mai, are endless and delicious- make sure you get out there and explore!
For the perfect hotel in the old quarter of Chiang Mai, Thailand, check out Pingviman Hotel. It’s conveniently located to most things and has a great pool area.
To read more about Chiang Mai and all the fun activities that the city has to offer, check out my post “The Eight Best Things in Chiang Mai.”