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Dining Out in Chiang Mai, Thailand: 7 Great Local Restaurants

Updated on August 11, 2017
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The author lives in a quiet seaside community in Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. He's an avid gardener, traveler, and photographer.

Clockwise: Tea at Fern Forest Cafe; table setting at Pum; sticky rice dessert at Whole Earth; side dishes at Ginger & Kafe;  noodles with seafood at Whole Earth
Clockwise: Tea at Fern Forest Cafe; table setting at Pum; sticky rice dessert at Whole Earth; side dishes at Ginger & Kafe; noodles with seafood at Whole Earth | Source

Located in the highlands of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is known for its breathtaking scenery and historic charm - temples and ruins, ancient moat, crumbling city walls, Old Town quarters, and the peaceful Mae Ping River which runs through the city. Visiting Chiang Mai, travelers can immerse themselves in the rich local culture and traditions, be inspired by the gracious hospitality of the people, and enjoy the very best of classic Thai cuisine.

There are hundreds of restaurants in Chiang Mai and choosing one for lunch or dinner can be overwhelming! Here are 7 recommended restaurants for first-time visitors. Enjoy the extraordinary tastes and flavors of this amazing city!

(Note: Prices are in Thai Baht THB and US Dollar equivalent)

Teatime at Aum
Teatime at Aum | Source
Steamed vegetable bowl at Aum
Steamed vegetable bowl at Aum | Source


65 Moon Muang Road, Tha Phae Gate
+66 53 278 315

A vegetarian delight in Chiang Mai! Located across from Old Town’s Tha Phae Gate on a very busy street, but inside it’s a calm, quiet oasis. Casual atmosphere with home-style cooking: hearty, simple, fresh local ingredients. Everything is vegetarian, from the cabbage noodle soup to the green bean tofu curry to the steamed vegetables bowl (steamed broccoli, pumpkin, carrot, taro root, and beet root, served with roasted black sesame seeds and brown rice). Fruit smoothies, coconut juices and herbal teas are the most popular drinks. Dinner for two 300THB ($10US).

Tip: There’s a quaint bookstore upstairs where patrons can relax and sip tea or coffee while reading newspaper. Lots of vintage English titled paperbacks to peruse at one’s leisure.

Vegetable soup at Blue Diamond
Vegetable soup at Blue Diamond | Source
Garden artworks at Blue Diamond
Garden artworks at Blue Diamond | Source

Blue Diamond

35/1 Moon Muang Road, Soi 9
+66 53 217 120

Tuck inside a beautiful private home, this restaurant is a gem! The best tables are outside on the patio, next to the lovely flower garden and koi pond. Huge selections of Thai vegetarian dishes, but also lots of Western foods like tuna salad and spaghetti (big portion!). Try the delicious sautéed morning glory (also called water spinach or pak boong in Thai) in spicy garlic sauce and also the delightful crunchy cashew nut salad! This place is a favorite among young international backpackers (from the guesthouses in the neighborhood), hence the fun atmosphere and lively chats in many different languages! Crowded in the morning because of the popular European-style breakfast feast - definitely worth the wait for a table! Very affordable and family/kid friendly. Dinner for two 250THB ($8US)

Tip: Check out the restaurant’s bakery (more like a health food store), it sells a variety of healthy snacks and baked goodies. The gluten free, multi-grain cereal breakfast cookies are very tasty!

Khao soi curry noodle at Ginger & Kafe
Khao soi curry noodle at Ginger & Kafe | Source
Spicy squid salad at Ginger & Kafe
Spicy squid salad at Ginger & Kafe | Source

Ginger & Kafe

199 Moon Muang Road
+66 53 419 011

Everything about this restaurant is top notch: from the cozy outdoor seating area to the elegant indoor dining room to the sophisticated menu. It serves traditional Thai and contemporary Western cuisines. The best khao soi in Thailand! It’s a classic Thai curry noodle dish with chicken, served with pickled cabbage, fresh lime, red onion, and hot chili paste. The combination of aromatic spices and pungent flavors is incredible! This fine restaurant is a favorite rendez-vous of the European and American expats community. Exceptional service and impressive wine/cocktail list. Dinner for two 1,260THB ($40US).

Tip: Try the sample meal set (good for sharing!) which comes with 4 different dishes: green curry, fried rice, spicy squid salad, and breaded morning glory leaves. Also, check out the “HOUSE SHOP” furniture/home décor gallery next to the restaurant (same owner), they have quite an eclectic collection.

Whole Earth restaurant pavilion and garden
Whole Earth restaurant pavilion and garden | Source
Curry rice with crab at Whole Earth.
Curry rice with crab at Whole Earth. | Source

Whole Earth

88 Sridonchai Road
+66 53 282 463

Set in a traditional Thai pavilion surrounded by a large garden, this 30-year-old restaurant serves two of the most intriguing cuisines in the world - Thai and Indian. The foods are authentic, skillfully prepared and exquisitely presented. Many classic Indian and Thai dishes, most are vegetarian but there are some meat and seafood options. Signature dishes include the vegetarian tom yum soup and the curry rice with crab meat served in a pineapple. Must try the sticky rice dessert with fresh mango and coconut cream, it’s divine! The seating out on the wrap-around veranda has the best view of the fragrant garden, pond and water fountain below. Superb service! Excellent wine selections by bottles and glasses. Dinner for two 800THB ($26US).

Tip: Patrons must remove shoes before going upstairs to the dining room, it’s a tradition. Also at night, the whole place is lit up with candles and lanterns, magical! (Hint: romantic dinner dates).

Dining room at Pum
Dining room at Pum | Source
Spicy garlic chicken at Pum
Spicy garlic chicken at Pum | Source


98/9 Sridonchai Road
+66 53 282 463

Unique contemporary setting (reminiscent of trendy eateries in New York or San Francisco): from the bright orange décor to the zen-like furnishings to the stainless-steel-and-wood-designed open kitchen in the center of room. A wide range of dishes and the food is healthy, inventive, globally influenced. Try the Vietnamese-style sautéed prawn in lemongrass peanut sauce or the Thai-style omelette with minced pork and onion or the Japanese-inspired noodle soup with kale, mushroom and fresh tofu. The chicken satay appetizer is out of this world! Everything has a clean, light, flavorful taste. High energy ambience and super cool service staff! Dinner for two 390THB ($12US).

Tip: This restaurant is also a reputable Thai cooking school and students (tourists and serious foodies) get to enjoy their own creations at the end of each lesson, how fun is that?

Entrance to Fern Forest Cafe
Entrance to Fern Forest Cafe | Source
Terrace seating at Fern Forest Cafe
Terrace seating at Fern Forest Cafe | Source
Tea and carrot cake at Fern Forest Cafe
Tea and carrot cake at Fern Forest Cafe | Source

Fern Forest Cafe

2/2 Singhatrat Road, Soi 4
+66 53 416 204

This charming café is a little hard to find (located in a maze-like residential neighborhood soi or alley street) but it’s well worth it! It’s a 2-story Thai home that has been converted into a café and bakery, surrounded by a lush garden filled with exotic palm, bamboo, philodendron, orchid, and a small waterfall. Teak tables, chairs, pillows and umbrellas set out over the mossy stone terrace. Patrons enjoy teatime - plenty of delectable sandwiches, salads, cakes on the menu - and relax in the soothing sounds of flowing water and chirping frogs. There’s also a cozy lanai overlooking the garden, with comfortable sofas, lounge chaises and several book shelves stacked with international newspapers and magazines. It’s a popular hangout for university students and local LGBT community. Lunch for two 200THB ($6US).

Tip: Lots of gourmet coffee and tea drinks to choose from. Try a slice of the luscious carrot cake with a cup of ginger lemon tea! Oh yeah, there’s free WiFi too.

Cinnamon bun at Butter Is Better
Cinnamon bun at Butter Is Better | Source
Table setting at Butter Is Better
Table setting at Butter Is Better | Source

Butter Is Better

183/8-9 Chan Khlan Road
+66 53 820 761

The perfect antidote for American tourists who are homesick or want to take a break from spicy Thai food! Located on Chang Khlan road (near the Shangri-La hotel), this place looks and feels like a diner somewhere in southern California! Classic movie posters, old newspaper clippings, retro tableware, and Elvis rocks away on the overhead speakers! (Alas, they don't have a jukebox!) The menu is loaded with typical American comfort foods like hot dog, hamburger, meat loaf with mashed potato and gravy, etc. It also serves breakfast all day long! Scrambled eggs with toast (comes with real butter and strawberry jam) or sourdough muffins stuffed with fried eggs and bacon. Nice, friendly waitress and kitchen staff. Breakfast for two 285THB ($9US).

Tip: Must try their homemade cinnamon buns, served warm, gooey and sticky: it’s oh-my-goodness delicious!

65 Moon Muang Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

get directions

Blue Diamond:
35/1 Moon Muang Road, Soi 9, Chiang Mai, Thailand

get directions

Ginger & Kafe:
199 Moon Muang Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

get directions

Whole Earth:
88 Sridonchai Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

get directions

98/9 Sridonchai, Chiang Mai, Thailand

get directions

Fern Forest Cafe:
2/2 Singharat Road, Soi 4, Chiang Mai, Thailand

get directions

Butter Is Better:
183/8-9 Chang Klan Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand

get directions


The author spent a month traveling in Thailand last year. He loves Chiang Mai: the city, the scenery, the people, and the food! These are 7 of his favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai.

All photos were taken by the author with a SamsungPL120 DualView 14.2MP Digital Camera.

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2012 Viet Doan (punacoast)


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