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Chiang Mai, Thailand Restaurants - Eat Like The Locals

Updated on July 28, 2011

Where the Locals Eat

Khun Churn for vegetarian dining and a lunch buffet
Khun Churn for vegetarian dining and a lunch buffet
Pad Thai, a local staple!
Pad Thai, a local staple!
Blue Diamond for fresh and healthy food on a budget
Blue Diamond for fresh and healthy food on a budget
Su Casa for Mediterranean food, tapas and amazing drinks!
Su Casa for Mediterranean food, tapas and amazing drinks!
Cool interior decoration, cheap local designer food
Cool interior decoration, cheap local designer food
Ginger & Kafe for hip eats
Ginger & Kafe for hip eats
Banana Leaf Restaurant on Canal Road offers amazing cuisine such as prawns in a pineapple basket.
Banana Leaf Restaurant on Canal Road offers amazing cuisine such as prawns in a pineapple basket.

Where the Locals Roam

Set down the guidebook and join the locals of Chiang Mai. Of course, while there's terrific Thai food all over the city, some is better than others. And, stepping out of the "tourist areas", there are better quality meals and more options to feast upon. Also, with such a huge population of foreigners here, we miss home - so we eat foreign food. There is plenty of great options.

Eating in Chiang Mai With the Ex-pats

  • Lemon Tree Restaurant has two locations, though the favored one, which has two levels is on Huay Kaew Road and is centrally located across from the Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Mall. This restaurant has been around for a very long time and has the most yellow walls you will ever be surrounded by while eating amazing food. All of your favorite Thai dishes are at this place. And, if you don't see it on the menu, ask for it. Most of the waitstaff speak English and are very patient and friendly. Meals here can range from about $2 up to about $8. This is the place I like to take visitors - load up the table with fabulous food and spend a very small amount.
  • Blue Diamond is where you will find a ton of yogi's, healthy people and people who love delicious foods prepared with lots of love. They have full breakfasts and a variety of Thai dishes. The portions are enormous and the prices are very cheap. There is no air-conditioning here, but it is surrounded by beautiful gardens to cool it down when it's hot outside. Try a long list of shakes and juices all made fresh to order. Salads are the best in town! Closed on Sundays. Also, if you want to find a yoga teacher, spiritual adviser or a good local band, this is the place to hunt for flyers posted on the wall. This restaurant is located in Old Town near Chang Puak Gate (North Gate).
  • Su Casa is the perfect place to go when you're tired of Thai food. The chef specializes in Mediterranean fare and changes up the specials almost weekly. The food is consistent and the owner is very friendly, so is her poodle named, Sangria. Speaking of Sangria - the drink - there's is the best in town. Armed with a very long list of mixed drinks which would be near impossible to actually try all of them in a lifetime, this is a favorite getaway and has air-conditioning. Su Casa is located in the hip and trendy Nimmahaemin area and offers a very modern, chic design - great for group outings.
  • Khan Asa is the restaurant travel writers try to skip putting in their books so they can savour it for themselves. The décor is funky and the music played is the best in town. Try to avoid it when there are local bands playing - which you will notice immediately as they spill out into the street. Most of the time, this restaurant is quiet and relaxing and has a menu of many local Thai favorite dishes. The price is easy to swallow. There is no air conditioning, but it's just a short walk away from North Gate Jazz Co-op, which makes it an ideal date location.
  • Ginger and Cafe is in old town and located next to The House Restaurant. The prices at the cafe are lower than the very swank House Restaurant, but the food is just as good. Fusion food served up at it's best! Most of the dishes are around $6 and there are full drink lists available. The location is easy to walk to from the center of town. And, the funky feel of the décor of the restaurant will transport you to a fairytale. There's always something new to see at the same cafe that always surprises it's guests with new culinary treats!
  • Khun Churn is a favorite in Chiang Mai. Though for me personally, I think it's a bit hit or miss. If you are vegetarian, it is a haven, oasis waiting to welcome and greet you with open arms. Everyday they serve a lunch buffet with different salad ingredients, curries, rice and noodle dishes. The cook has changed over the years. What used to be food leaning toward the sweet side, is oftentimes leaning toward the more savory side, sometimes a bit bitter for my own palette. Though, it seems to still be a very favored restaurant in town. This is also located near the Nimmahaemin area. After the buffet, they offer food with a bit higher prices from the menu.
  • Salsa Kitchen is a well-loved Tex-Mex restaurant. The portions are huge and served on enormous plates, elegantly presented. Everything from Chimichangas to Mission Burritos can be found here. The owner is Canadian and is often the chef, with his Thai wife and kids helping to serve when the place is busy. The artwork on the walls is worth the visit all on it's own. A huge serving of amazing food will set you back about $5 a head without drinks. I hear the Margaritas are well worth a try too!
  • Further afield is The Banana Leaf, on the side of Canal Road, to the left of Suthep Road. This is a classic Thai restaurant with live music and a huge Thai menu with English translations. The food is prepared beautifully and is exactly what you always see in travel guide books but never quite find in reality. If you want to eat like a king or queen and feast on what you were always promised in culinary magazines, this is the place. There is no air-conditioning here, but the mosquito coils under the tables do help. Try the Fried shrimp cakes - I call them Shrimp Doughnuts. They're simply divine! The price here is a little bit higher than most Thai restaurants, but well worth the investment. If you eat "Thai Style" and share a bunch of dishes with your friends, a group of 4 can eat well for about $30 or so.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

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    • Laura Spector profile image

      Laura Spector 6 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Prisana, I'm sure you'll love it! Have a great time!

    • Prisana profile image

      Prisana Nuechterlein 6 years ago from Thailand and Colorado

      Yum! Really excited to try the Lemon Tree etc. Thanks for sharing. Much appreciated! Voted up!

    • john-vegan profile image

      john-vegan 6 years ago from USA

      Ahhhh how you eat snakes and all?

    • Laura Spector profile image

      Laura Spector 7 years ago from Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Thanks! Just went to Su Casa tonight - really good sandwiches...a bit heavy but delicious. I like their sauteed mushroom salad (I add Chicken). They also have an amazing tomato soup! And their chocolate mousse is pretty terrific too. Hope you enjoy it! By the way - Lemon Tree is maybe the best Thai food I've ever eaten in Chiang Mai - it's consistent, really cheap and Arroi!

    • profile image 7 years ago from Vancouver / Bangkok

      Cool Hub ,

      I will have to check some of these places out , I have only tried the Salsa Kitchen and the Banana Leaf. Looking forward to trying Su Casa ! I don't usually go out for Thai food , we do that at home!


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