a bare bones approach to a city dining guide

1 | navigate below by cuisine, location, establishment type, or price range.
2 | get out there and enjoy.

these are raw notes. the 'notables' are what I likely order each time I go to the posted establishment. if there is a website, I link to it for more information [and for your convenience].

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the house

The House. Mmmm.
Go after payday or when you have friends in town -- it's worth the splurge, trust me. Our group of 4 strategized our appetizers and entrees so we could all try each others' dish. For the sake of everyone's palate, go with friends who like to share. The menu changes seasonally (as we discovered a few weeks ago) but remains consistently delish. There are a number of vegetarian-friendly options, a tapas menu, and a nice selection of wine. It's very romantic, so enjoy it with someone you actually like. No one should experience such exquisite food in bad company.


notables | due to the seasonal menu, I can't guarantee these will be available by the time you save enough baht (or your parents - biological or sugar - are in town to foot the bill).
Here's a sample of what we ordered: beef carpaccio with blue cream cheese, crisp parmesan, mini herbs and truffle cream. spicy grilled prawns marinated in chili paste, coriander, lemongrass, pomelo, mint salsa and basil. five-spice crusted tuna served on polenta and spinach with red capsicum sauce (sooo good). roasted salmon with black olive crust, red chili potatoes and semi dried tomatoes. eggplant gnocchi wrapped with ricotta cheese, pine nuts, raisin, and tomato herb sauce (also, sooo good).

dessert notable | chocolate ganache served with raspberry sorbet while sipping a neat Grand Marnier.
199 Moonmuang Rd - north or Thapae Gate, inside the moat
tel. 053.419.010


miguel's cafe

I tend to hear mixed reviews about Miguel's, one of two mexican [more like tex-mex] restaurants in CM. But, during the 2+ years I've lived here, the place has really grown on me. I always stick to what I like and leave pretty satisfied every time.
Miguel's location isn't the quietest - it sits right on the busy road outside the moat. Sometimes you'll have to alternate between shouting and talking to friends as noisy choppers and tuk-tuks obnoxiously whiz by. That aside, the atmosphere is cheery and there will always be farang faces stuffing themselves beside you. At peak dinner hours the place fills up, so choose your timing wisely.


notables | chicken fajita soft taco. baja fish taco. nachos grande. sizzling fajitas [huge!]. any kind of wet burrito. the margaritas.
tel. 053.874.148


smoothie blues

Smoothie Blues sits on the corner of Niman's soi 6 and is well-patroned by mostly farang. It's run by a friendly family who also own the eyeglass shop next door. I've never been overly excited by the breakfast here, but the smoothies are yummy and I've recently discovered a really great pesto tuna sandwich.
As Niman continues to build up [literally, with the number of condos and complexes under construction] so increases the number of foreigners and expatriates in the area. Smoothie Blues has become a default rendez-vous point for this growing population. In fact, occasionally I almost forget that we are in Thailand as the joint is somewhat of a farangy bubble.
It's a popular spot for brunch-goers and ideal for people-watching. Whether seated on the outdoor patio or inside absorbing the a/c in windowed comfort, you can't help but cruise the daytime Niman bustle.

notables | any of the smoothies. pesto tuna sandwich [add avocado] on whole wheat bread.


bake & bite

A Chiang Mai weekend isn't complete without brunch at B&B. You'll find me and my regular compadres at either the Kaew Nawarat or Nimanhaemin locations, probably sometime after 11:00am on any given Saturday or Sunday. Don't mind us as we leaf through the Nation or Bangkok Post, commenting here and there about the latest political shenanigan or an interesting article on gender and/or transgender.
Apart from a spot to catch up on the news, the food is reliably rockin'. We basically order the exact same thing every time.
The newest residential location off of Kaew Nawarat has the main bakery and supplies the other branches with bagels, bread, biscuits, english muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls, quiche, brownies, cookies, pies...and so many more I can't remember them all. The owner informed us recently that they've started supplying Rimping Supermarket with bagels. Excellent.
B&B is like the daytime Duke's as missionary families and friends tend to fill up the place before and after church on Sundays. So, schedule your hunger accordingly.


notables | spinach and cheese enchilada. eggs florentine. hash browns. muesli pancakes. whole-grain bagel with cream cheese, garlic & chives. goat cheese bruschetta. hot latte [the regular size is huge, so ask for the small mug, unless you need a jumpstart after a loss-of-braincell type evening].

alternate notable | the vegetarian set [includes yogurt, fresh fruit, a small muesli pancake, spinach & cheese omelette, and coffee]. Share this with someone and order one of the notable dishes above.

locations | There are two. Driving eastbound down Kaew Nawarat, look for the yellow signage to your right. Nimanhaemin Rd, soi 6, across from Powerhouse Gym.
Nimanhaemin 053.400.577


burmese restaurant

The burmese restaurant is a nameless hole-in-the-wall on Nimanhaemin. What lacks in decor is made up for in cuisine. Just as the name implies, the restaurant offers simply good food without all the fluff and facade of most Niman restaurants. The random posters taped to white-wash walls and searing fluorescent lights add to its quirky charm. A great new wall addition is an adaptation of J. Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!" poster with Aung San Syuu Kyi as the heroine icon.
Located across from soi 13, the unassuming restaurant sits on a corner, a few steps from the 7-11. Patrons can order standard Thai dishes a la carte in addition to what's offered on the burmese menu.


notables | tea leaves salad. bean soup. pennyworth salad. burmese tea.


vieng joom on

You can't miss the bright exterior of Vieng Joom On. In Northern Thai, vieng means wooden fort, and joom on, pink.
And pink it is.
A teahouse in femme fatigue, the crisp pink and white linens gracenote cushioned wicker and floral pillows galore. The three-storey establishment cozies along the Ping River and is a good choice for a light lunch or afternoon snack.
The all-เจ menu offers dainty selections with modest portions. It's quality, not quantity.
Vieng Joom On rightfully boasts a grandiose selection of teas: chinese green and black, rooibos, fruit, masala chai, herbal, the list goes on. Canisters of loose tea leaves line the entrance wall behind friendly staff who immediately wai in greeting, all ready for a la carte purchases. For those in need of retail therapy, hit the giftshop on the first floor.


notables | crepe with creamy tomato sauce, sprinkled with sliced almonds. mushroom strudel [mushroom and cream sauce wrapped in crispy filo pastry]. apple and prune filo dessert.

note | this is definitely a place to re-visit.

*Apologies for the somewhat janky photos - all I had was my mobile phone camera.


le spice

Of all the indian restaurants I've tried in Chiang Mai, Le Spice is my favourite. This place identifies as an indian, thai, and seafood restaurant. My suggestion: go indian.
The sets start at 99 baht and generally include two curries, a dahl, raita, papadum and rice. If you're with a group of people, it's always fun to order a number of dishes a la carte and share. Just think, the more people you're with, the more dishes you can try.
The menu is extensive. To aid the selection process, decide what kind of curry you're in the mood for [vindaloo, masala, saag, etc.] and then choose the meat/vegetable [chicken, mutton, beef, fish, paneer, etc].
To get there, drive down the night bazaar road and about midway you'll see the Kalare complex on your left. There is a Doi Chaang Coffee at the end of the complex. Turn immediately left down the soi and you'll see the brightly-lit Le Spice sign on the right.


notables |
fish tikka. malai kofta [vegetable balls in a creamy curry]. vindaloo and/or masala [fish, chicken, mutton, you decide]. saag paneer [homemade indian cheese in spinach curry]. bengan bharta [eggplant curry]. any rice biriyani. lots of garlic naan. le spice naan [addition of dried fruit, coconut = funky].

sweet notables | kulfi [spiced rice ice cream]. kheer [indian rice pudding].

note | definitely vegetarian-friendly.


the duke's

For western cravings and a western appetite, go to The Duke's. And perhaps wear your stretchy pants.
The portions are generous, so try to save room for dessert. Although I'm not a huge meat eater, I've heard the steak and ribs are tasty.
The Duke's is family friendly and a good place to relish appetizers between friends. Count on full tables during peak dinner hours.
There are two locations: one along the Ping River not far from Rimping Supermarket, and a newer branch in the Night Bazaar. I stay true to the Ping River location - cheaper prices and away from the tourist commotion of the Night Bazaar area. For Hang Dong-ers, a third location is due to open in Kad Farang very soon. Whichever location you choose, don't be surprised if you feel like rolling yourself out the door.


notables | the big nacho. warm spinach salad [all salads are served with crusty foccacia bread]. a bowl of homemade chili. pizza [huge and you can choose your own toppings]

sweet notables | monster chocolate chip cookie [ask your server to warm it up first...mmm]. warm brownie a la mode.

liquid refreshment |
cold stein of Salvator beer.


เจ food stall - payap canteen

Since the opening of this vegetarian food stall, the Payap canteen has become a viable, and even select, option for lunch. Once upon a time, we used to venture the canteen as a last resort. But these days, I often look forward to lunch at the newly renovated 'Manna Food Center.' I even find myself craving the mock roasted red pork and duck, and will do anything for the fried mushrooms. Although it is still pretty much unbearable during hot season, the canteen itself has undergone some improvements in terms of atmosphere. Among the sparse food stall selections, this veg spot is a saving grace among slim pickings.
The stall is located at Payap University's Mae Khao campus, behind Carrefour off of the superhighway. Upon entering the campus, the canteen is on your right. Look for the typical yellow เจ signage.


notables | everything. especially the fried mushrooms.

khun churn

Khun Churn is a Chiang Mai staple. Located on soi 17 off Nimanhaemin, seating under a trademark tin roof provides an outdoor atmosphere for friendly facestuffing. You can also choose to sit indoors, but beware if it's rainy season. I've sat inside during torrential rainfall and water actually leaked from the light fixtures.
The lunch buffet, anytime between 11:30-2:00pm, is decent. Less than 100 baht for a plethora of vegetarian, เจ [jay], dishes, plus your choice of an herbal beverage. Otherwise, Khun Churn offers a vegetarian friendly breakfast menu and/or reasonably priced dinner selections. I don't think I've ever ordered something I didn't like.


notables | mushroom & seaweed omelette [หอยทอด or huay tod]. fresh spring rolls [ปอเปี้ยะสด or popiah sod]. pomelo salad [ยำส้มโอ or yum som-o]. sizzling mushroom plate. fried potatoes with garlic and cilantro. lemongrass beverage [น้ำตะไคร้ or naam tda-krai].


lucky foo's

* Like a number of businesses in risky CM, Lucky Foo's has also bit the dust. Too bad, it was perhaps one of my favourite breakfast spots! *
Any menu with goat cheese always keeps me coming back for more.
Quietly set in CM's backpacker domain, Lucky Foo's is a restaurant/lounge with friendly fare for non, fake, and real vegetarians alike. The breakfast selections are so good, you may even find yourself there two days in a row.
The open storefront and numerous windows permit jocund daylight to accompany brunch. Inside, the decor has an air of cool-kitsch. Chairs of cushioned iron and shellacked red tables welcome rumbling stomachs on legs. On Sundays, an upbeat bluegrass band twangs on as you recount the previous night's fuzzy occurrences over a decent mug of fresh brewed coffee.


notables | tofu scramble [this is the best deal, only 90 baht for the scramble, hashbrowns, soy bacon, and choice of bread]. buttermilk biscuits [serious melt in your mouth goodness]. baked herb eggs [eggs, goat cheese, and herby herbs]. belgium waffles with fruit compote. breakfast frittata.

so-so | chicken quesadilla.

future endeavours | smoked salmon & goat cheese on a bagel with fries.

location | from the moat, turn down Moon Muang soi 1. continue on as the soi turns right. before the soi turns right again, look for the yellow building on your left.


mi casa

If only Mi Casa were closer to my neck of the woods. Just off Suthep Road behind Chiang Mai University, this romantic Mediterranean restaurant even has a real, live Spanish chef behind the scenes.
You can choose to sit in the lush outdoors or inside with cozy home decor. A special menu can be arranged for private parties - your guests will not be let down.
Start with tapas and sangria, then indulge in the attentive service, quiet atmosphere, and decadent menu. Speaking of indulging, Mi Casa serves a fresh, crusty homemade bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum.


notables | tapas sampler. rocket salad. pan de la casa [fresh, crusty bread with olive oil & balsamic vinegar]. pan-fried chilean cod fillet [with red wine risotto]. chargrilled australian beef tenderloin with red wine sauce [on rosti potatoes & asian mushroom ragout].


jerusalem falafel

Jerusalem Falafel is the number one, if not the only, choice for middle eastern cuisine in CM. The menu has mediterranean and european dishes, but it's the warm [and well-seasoned] pita, hearty falafel, and yummy hummous that keeps me going back. Prices are somewhat reasonable and the service fairly quick.
The restaurant is on Moon Muang Road, on the inner side the moat and a short walk from Thapae Gate. Set among some sketchy bars with neon lights, a 7-11, and motorbike rental, this area is explicitly the tourist part of town. Once inside the restaurant, the warm atmosphere helps to forget about the possible debauchery going on outside.


notables | meze platter - hummous, baba ghanoush, tzatziki, tahini, tabbouleh, falafel + 2 pitas [the menu says good for 2 people, but 3 could indulge and leave full without bursting]. haloumi cheese salad [I love this cheese!].

so so | dolmas.

note | Jerusalem Falafel also sells their goods at Rimping Supermarket - hummous, pita, falafel, haloumi cheese - all ready to eat.


tanaum pochana [ถนอมโภชนา]

Tanaum Pochana [ถนอมโภชนา] is a well-kept CM secret. For a restaurant in such a central location, surprisingly no one in my office knew it existed. But, we were glad for the introduction. This simple Thai family restaurant hides between the Amora Hotel and Starbucks, diagonal from Thapae Gate.
The menu is minimal, as the shop specializes in a few particular dishes. Most famous is the sour soup, gaeng som [แกงส้ม], with its addition of dauk keh [ดอกแค], an edible flower. There is only one dessert on the menu, lod chong nam ka ti, pandan rice noodles in iced coconut milk [similar to the Singaporean dessert, chendol].
The restaurant stops taking orders around 7:00pm, and turns away people wearing inappropriate attire [i.e. short shorts, tank tops - it is a family restaurant, after all]. If you park at the Amora and walk towards Starbucks, look for a brown fence on your left.


notables | sour soup or gaeng som [แกงส้ม]. thai omelette [ไข่เจียว]. fried catfish [so fried, you can eat the bones - crispy goodness].



* Buonissimo has now moved near Thapae Gate and renamed Pizza E Vino. It's just a couple of doors down from THC (the psychadelic, backpacker-magnet, rooftop bar). As for the shop (with meats, cheese, etc), it is located somewhere on Chang Klan Rd...but I am not exactly sure where the location is yet. Will keep you posted when I find it. *
Ah Buonissimo. My favourite Italian restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Located along the Ping River [on Faham Road, just before you hit the super-highway], this restaurant is conducive for both friendly and romantic dining.
An 80 baht glass of house red, the complimentary bread basket with creamy garlic spread and marinara [which lately seems on perpetual hiatus], and a 30 baht scoop of gelato to finish things off, are additional bonuses to Buonissimo's yummy appetizers and entrees.
At the entrance is a shop selling pasta, bread, cheese, olive oil, and other ingredients for Italian home-cooking, as well as a decent selection of imported wines and ready-to-eat desserts.


notables | pesto pizza [absolutely love this]. "american" salad [sapid parmesan and savory dressing = brilliance]. onion focaccia [served in the bread basket].

mentionables | caprese. quatro fromaggi pizza. grilled vegetables [thin slices of eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, drizzled with olive oil and fresh garlic].


yum saap

A cheerful 'mall diner' serving fiery Thai salads, Yum Saap is a good place for quick eats - as long as you have a fairly high เผ้ด tolerance. Everything I tried had distinct zing. The vibrant menus showcase dishes with typically Thai flavour contrasts: sour, sweet, spicy, salty. My mouth waters at the very thought. A must-try is the tamarind shake - sip on it to cut the spice-factor of each dish.
In Chiang Mai, Yum Saap can be found at the two main "malls" - Central Kad Suan Kaew and Airport Plaza. I wouldn't suggest going out of your way to try it, but give it a try the next time you're out for some retail therapy, or enjoying the mall a/c on a sultry CM weekend.

notables | tamarind shake. mixed fruit salad [ยำผลไม้รวม]. papaya salad [ส้มตำ].


Girasole, in Ratchadamnon's high-traffic back-packer zone [in the middle of the Sunday walking street, next to Wawee Coffee], is not my first pick for Italian in Chiang Mai. The same owner as La Gondola Restaurant, the experience at Girasole is nothing like La Gondola - Ping River [may it rest in peace].
While the food at Girasole was not terrible, the service was atypically discourteous for Chiang Mai. The server - presumably the manager - slodged water into our glasses, hastily doled out our dishes, and remained stone-faced through every interaction, from beginning to end of the meal. The younger waitstaff were pleasant enough, perhaps trying to warm us from our server's cold demeanor.


notable | house salad [avocado, mango, apple, orange, deep-fried mozzarella, lightly coated with a refreshing herb-yogurt dressing]

so-so | the penne all'arrabiata received good reviews, but it's a pretty basic pasta dish [in other words, hard to mess up].

not so | the service.



A Bangkok original, Chiang Mai's iBerry is owned by Thai artist/comedian Note Udom. To find it, follow the canary yellow Mickey heads [they'll point you in the right direction] to the green patch of land on Niman, soi 19.
iBerry is a hot-spot for university students and artsy twenty to thirty-somethings. This trendy shop bustles with CMers digging into gelato, sipping coffee frappes, and posing in front of Udom's over the top, cartoony installations for a photo. Within each group, at least one person clutches a camera for self-portraits and group shots.
On Sunday afternoons, I've been known to spend a lazy [yet productive] three hours on iBerry's zippy wifi, usually on the brown couch next to the front window. Get there before 2pm to snag a comfy spot. The place fills up quickly after lunch.
Rice sack lampshades, a vintage snot-green dentist headlamp, Mao gesturing "west-side," and a graffiti Mickey climbing up the wall, are just some artistic inclusions that add to iBerry's quirkiness.


notables | nutty cappuccino minus whipped cream. gelato: pistachio, nutella, green tea & red bean, mocha almond fudge, tiramisu, banana & cheese [if you're feeling adventurous], and many more. can't decide? go for the five mini-scoop sampler.