After living in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai for more than a year, I can say with confidence I’ve discovered the best Chiang Mai restaurants. From local street food to brunch at high-end resorts, this guide will show you the best places to eat in Chiang Mai!
You’ll probably notice that, with a few exceptions, all the restaurants I mention here are either Thai/Western fusion places or more Western than local. I’ve made this choice because it’s not hard to find good local food in Chiang Mai. In fact, I’d say it’s hard to find bad local food there.
Nearly every street food stall or hole in the wall restaurant serves up amazing local food. I’ll highlight a few of my can’t miss local spots, but the majority of this list is Western or fusion options.
15/5 Moo 1 // +66 53 217 395
One of my favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai and my default choice when I couldn’t think of where to go. The menu focuses on healthy options like salads and wraps with generous portions. Most ingredients are organic, farm-to-table, and locally sourced.
I most liked to visit for breakfast or lunch, although they do have dinner options. This savory waffle with bacon, fried egg, and chutney was worth getting out of bed in time to make the breakfast menu:
The menu is full of vegetarian and vegan option,s and most of their dishes can be made vegetarian if you’d like. But fear not carnivores, there’s plenty for us too. They happen to make really great burgers!
My favorite dishes: the Mexican wrap (add guacamole), the savory waffle, banana/bacon pancakes with spicy syrup, and the mango/tilapia wrap made spicy.
Soi Sukasem (Between Nimman Soi 2&4) // +66 81 881 1407
I think I took nearly everyone that came to visit to this place: every Couchsurfer that stayed with me, every blogger that came through town, and even several first dates. Cherng Doi serves local food, simply prepared and consistently perfect.
While the restaurant is named Cherng Doi, we usually call it the crispy chicken place. I know it may not look like much, but trust me, everyone that I took here loved it and nearly all made it a point to go back before leaving town. This will likely be the first dinner I have the next time I’m back in Chiang Mai.
The restaurant also had a version of the classic Thai papaya salad that I had never seen before. In their version the papaya is battered and deep-fried with the dressing served as a dipping sauce.
My favorite dishes: crispy chicken, laab moo, spicy papaya salad, sticky rice. All with a cold Singha beer, of course.
David’s Kitchen is my favorite place in Chiang Mai for fine dining. This is where you go when you want to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, impress a date or just enjoy a very nice meal.
Most of the menu is comprised of French recipes such as lobster bisque, escargot, and salad Nicoise. The restaurant also offers seafood selections and local recipes elevated to a fine dining standard.
The chef’s favorite dishes, and the ones he’s mastered most, are beef. Reservations are highly recommended and essentially required if you want a table on most weekends or holidays, as this is one of Chiang Mai’s most popular restaurants.
My favorite dishes: The beef cheeks cooked in a red wine reduction or the grilled duck breast.
52/2 Village No.8 Soi 4, Wat Umong // +66 94 842 0197
Rosy Cheeks has a passionate young chef/owner who is constantly reworking his menu of updated classic and fusion dishes.
The menu focuses on seasonal ingredients (that’s why it constantly rotates). The food tends to run a healthier fare, but it’s not lacking in flavor. The presentation is gorgeous, and service is consistency excellent. I’m anxious to make it back, as I hear the restaurant has expanded since I was last in.
My favorite dishes: pesto prawn pasta, the phoritto, and whatever new additions the chef has added since I last ate there.
14 Nimmanhemin Soi 17 // + 66 80 124 1414
There’s a lot of debate about which restaurant has the best burger in Chiang Mai, but if I had to choose just one, my vote would go to Beast Burger. The restaurant has a fairly straightforward menu, burgers and your choice of three types of fries, but everything is done really well.
Big, juicy burgers, crispy fries, and your choice of sauces. The only thing that would make this place better? If they sold beer.
My favorite: The Beast burger with aioli and standard crinkle cut fries.
Inside the famous Shangri-La hotel you’ll find the Kad Kafe, home to arguably the best brunch in Chiang Mai. The international buffet includes selections like grilled lamb chops, cheeses from around the world, cooked to order foie gras, made to order pastas, an impressive dessert selection and much more.
Priced at 1188 baht, or $34 USD, the meal is a bit of a splurge but totally worth it.
Looking for the best brunches in Chiang Mai? Click here to read my post about the best brunch spots in town!
26/4 Huay Kaew Road // +66 53 216 605
If you follow me on Instagram you know I’m constantly in search of Mexican food, no matter where I am. It’s been easier to find since I moved to Mexico, but it’s not always so easy to find in Southeast Asia.
Salsa Kitchen is the best Mexican food I’ve found in all of Asia. It’s actually more Tex-Mex than actual Mexican food, but when you’re having a craving, Salsa Kitchen more than satisfies it. It was literally right out my front door when I lived in Chiang Mai, so I ended up there way too often!
My favorite dishes: the homemade guacamole and chicken enchiladas.
44/1 Canal Road, Chang Khian Subdistrict // +66 83 564 7107
Amazing Italian food in Thailand? I admit, I was a bit suspicious when I first heard about this place. But, I knew from the moment I walked in and saw the owner behind the counter hand rolling pasta that I would like this place.
Fresh pasta, classic Italian dishes, and the highest quality ingredients, all combined to make simple but insanely delicious dishes.
The restaurant also offers salads and made to order pizzas baked on their special made-in-house crust.
My favorite dishes: Start with a seasonal salad topped with crispy bacon, then either the spaghetti bolognese or lasagna.
113/23 Soi Thong // +66 99 551 1009
This small restaurant is a bit out of the way, but well worth finding. I found it very homey, almost as if I was hanging out in a friend’s kitchen, sipping wine while they prepared my dinner.
I would say the menu here changes, daily but when we were in, the chef actually changed it on the spot. As my friend and I were checking out the menu, he mentioned he had fresh barramundi, which happens to be one of my favorite fishes. He offered to prepare a lunch for us using the fresh fish, even though it wasn’t even on the menu.
Thoroughly impressed, we booked a dinner for our friends and let the chef have complete control of the menu. The entire group was blown away by what he had put together. Roasted lamb with an apricot chutney, sautéed vegetables, a whole roasted chicken — every dish was delicious. Definitely book the chef’s table if you have the chance.
My favorite dishes: Whatever is fresh and the chef is in the mood to cook. There are very few restaurants where I would recommend this, but this is one of them. Tell him what you like/don’t like and he’ll impress you.
Nimmanhaemin Road Soi 7 // +66 053 216 420
Rustic & Blue is another of my go to favorites. Their menu is full of organic, farm to table dishes. In fact, they grow many of their ingredients on their own farm. Initially, the eatery started as a brunch restaurant before opening for dinner as well. Many of their brunch items, like the chicken and waffles and avocado eggs Benedict, are still some of my favorites.
You can also find yogurt bowls, French toast, vegetarian and vegan options, chorizo burgers and sriracha fried chicken on the menu.
Make sure to inquire about their monthly farm dinner, which they hold outside Chiang Mai on their private farm. I’ve attended several, and they’ve all been amazing — multi-course dinners, craft beers, unlimited wine and cocktails, all served family style on the farm with live music in the background. It’s a can’t miss for sure!
My favorite dishes: Green eggs Benedict, bacon and cheese stuffed jalapeños, baked ribs.
Moon Muang Rd Lane 1 // +66 53 279 230
This restaurant is as gorgeous as the food is amazing. Built in northern Thai style and featuring teak wood throughout, I often brought friends here when I wanted to take them somewhere a bit nicer that still had authentic and flavorful local dishes.
I generally find service in Thailand to be very good, but this restaurant takes it to the extreme — the service here is near flawless. Expect to pay for it though. This is one of the few places in town that will automatically add gratuity to your check, so keep that in mind. The restaurant often has live music. Call ahead for seating on the outdoor patio.
My favorite dishes: the whole fried fish with garlic or the crispy pork salad.
29/1 Ratchaphuek Alley // +66 53 213 284
Now for another hotly debated issue in Chiang Mai — who sells the best khao soi in town? This popular Burmese inspired soup has a coconut curry broth with two types of noodles (one served as a crunchy topping). It usually comes with pork (but sometimes beef or chicken) and a variety of sides, such as lime and pickled mustard greens, as well as chili for you to customize your bowl.
Khao soi Mae Sai was my go to spot to when I craved this dish. It’s popular with locals as well, and it can be difficult to find a table at lunch. I’ve also gone several times after the lunch rush only to find they sold out of soup. Come early, get in line, and prepare to be impressed.
You can hardly discuss Chiang Mai restaurants without mentioning the lady in the pink hat selling khao kha moo, made famous when Anthony Bourdain visited her during his time in Chiang Mai.
The dish is stewed pork leg in a flavorful sauce served over rice with a hard-boiled duck egg. Shallots, garlic and chiles are served on the side so you can dress your dish.
Honestly, her version is no better than other versions you can find in the city. It’s good — very good actually — but so is nearly every other version.
After Bourdain’s visit, she’s become a celebrity of sorts, wearing her trademark pink hat night after night. You can find her across from Chang Phueak gate (North gate) in the street food market. She’s easy to spot — generally, she’s the only vendor with a line at her stall. We used to hit this spot after a night at the North Gate Jazz Club, another place I loved to take visitors. Try to visit the jazz club on a Tuesday night if you can, that’s open mic/jam night.
Planning to visit Thailand for the the first time? Check out this guide to travel in Thailand to help you make the most of your time!
Which of these Chiang Mai restaurants looked best to you? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Travel writer and owner of the blog. My work has been featured on Fodors, Eater.com, International Living, and Great Escape Publishing, among many others. My story? Nearly six years ago, I left my job at an Oklahoma City law firm and embarked on a journey around the world. At the time, I thought I would only be gone for 6 months, but the more I traveled, the longer my bucket list became. Flashpacker describes how I travel. Rather than traveling as the normal world wise backpacker and staying in hostel dorms, I prefer a more comfortable experience, and typically stay in private rooms, take Ubers instead of taxis, and now use a suitcase instead of a backpack. Foodie, on the other hand, describes one of the key reasons why I travel. I love to pick a central “base camp” and then explore the surrounding area, really immersing myself in the culture and interacting with the people, and enjoying and exploring the food of an area is an essential part of this experience.