Chiang Mai food and places to eat on a budget

You have to line up for the famous pork dish from the Chiang Mai cowgirl You have to line up for the famous pork dish from the Chiang Mai cowgirl

If you are a food lover like me, you will enjoy Chiang Mai and all it’s tasty treats on offer.  There is something for everyone here at all budgets.  Our favourite spots were at the many markets, particularly the Chiang Mai’s North Gate and South Gate, where you could get a great feed, super cheap.  But, we did try the many restaurants around town and also preferred a Western style breakfast to start the day.  Here are a few of the many great places offering great Chiang Mai food, atmosphere and at a reasonable price.

Breakfast Bites

Oh so tasty fresh bread, vegan muesli bars and naughty croissants

A naughty breakfast of French toast and fruit salad

A treat breakfast of French toast and fruit salad at DA’s Home Bakery

Just up from Somphet Market is the little DA’s Home Bakery, which serves bakery goods, Western style breakfast and sandwiches.  They bake their own bread, have a variety of whole-wheat options and their meals are a decent size for the price.  The food comes out quickly, but the service is a little slow.  You may need to go up and order if you are in a rush.  They also stock a variety of natural products including soaps, shampoos and snacks like goji berries and nuts.  There are a lot of delicious biscuits, brownies and naughty but good quality treats.  Try the vegan muesli bar, which I am sure is not 100% good for you (there is no label for the ingredients) but they are mighty tasty.

DA’s Home Bakery
Location: Old Town
Soi 6 Moon Muang Road

Lunch Bites

My first taste of Chiang Mai

Buathip, Chiang Mai

Chicken Noodle Soup at Buathip

Buathip was the first place I ate at when we arrived at Chiang Mai and I wasn’t disappointed.  The restaurant, located directly opposite Wat Fon Soi is large and open with a menu that is simple; only 6 main dishes, a couple of dessert options and a selection of juices.

The staff were friendly and many of the patrons were locals which is always a good sign.  I had a simple chicken noodle soup, which was delicious and filling. Most meals were priced at 30-50TBH and delicious juices at 20-30TBH.

Location: Old Town
Prapokkloa Road, opposite the Wat Fon Soi

Just another ‘best’ Pad Thai in Thailand

The best Pad Thai I had in Chiang Mai

The best Pad Thai I had in Chiang Mai

Just a few doors north of @Curve mall on Chang Klan Road is Pad Thai & Oyster Pancake Café. The Pad Thai here was one of the best I have tried (and I have tried a few).  I had the chicken Pad Thai, make sure you add the chilli sauce for a bit of extra kick and don’t forget the lime!

Pad Thai & Oyster Pancake Café
Location: South of the Old Town
Chang Klan Road

Where the cool hippy kids go

Bird’s Nest Café is a popular place for tourists to visit for it’s ad hoc mix of Mediterranean and Thai cuisine in a hippy atmosphere.  It boasts having the best Arabica coffee in town, which as a non-coffee drinker I can’t vouch for, but I can say they have some great smoothies and delicious unique salads.  They also have an all day breakfast menu, sandwiches, curries and soups. Try the avocado and passionfruit!

Smoothies start from 40THB and mains on average are 70TBH.

Bird’s Nest Cafe
Location: Old Town
Singharaj soi 3

Simply delicious soup prepared with care

Jae Noodle was my favourite place for a simple yet oh so tasty soup

Jae Noodle was my favourite place for a simple yet oh so tasty soup

Right in the middle of Somphet Market is Jae Noodle, a little soup stall, always busy with locals enjoying their soup while watching a Thai soapie on the miniature TV.  Jae takes great care when preparing your soup and you can see she is very dedicated to her business.  Everything is very fresh, she even makes the dumplings up upon ordering. My favourite was the pork dumpling soup and for 30TBH was a winner.

Jae Noodle
Location: Old Town
Somphet Market Soi 6

Pretty good rabbit food!

A great big fresh salad, just what we craved at Salad Concept

A great big fresh salad, just what we craved at Salad Concept

The Salad Concept in Nimmanhaemin is the place to go if you want a fresh, Western style salad done really well.  Choose from a base of a salad or wrap and add up to 5 different toppings including asparagus, egg, beetroot, pumpkin, seeds and nuts.  Then select one of several salad dressings.  There are plenty of extras you can add on top including roast chicken, avocado, cheese, etc.  The salads are quick and the serves are big, all from 69TBH.  The wraps are from 75TBH and are the biggest I have ever seen.

As you travel eating different cuisines, on many occasions you crave something you can’t get readily available.  A simple, clean, fresh salad has been on our minds and when we finally went to The Salad Concept we were very satisfied.

Salad Concept
Location: Nimmanhaemin
Corner Soi 13 and Nimmanhaemin Road

If burgers are your thing, this place won’t disappoint!

Mouthwatering burgers at Like Life

Mouthwatering burgers at Like Life

Like Life is only a few months old and although they are still fine-tuning their restaurant, they have the burgers down pat.  These are one of the most mouth-watering burgers I have tried! I know, a big call, but they are really tasty.  The menu is simple with a choice of a beef or pork burger and a few extras to add.  Sides of fries and onion rings are available with a wicked mayo.

Like Life
Located: Nimmanhaemin
Soi 5

Dinner Bites

Great little hideaway place for dinner.

The Secret Learning Café, owned and run by Italian born Simone and his wife, Chiang Mai local Pui, serve awesome Thai food and Italian Pizza for dinner. They also serve a really good Italian coffee,

Although tiny, this little café has great atmosphere, Simone & Pui are very welcoming and the food is brilliant.  Should be on your hit list for sure! Open 5pm-late.  Closed Sundays.

Secret Learning Cafe
Location: Old Town
Corner Ratvithi Lane 1

Goodness wrapped up in a Dim Sum

Delicious Dumplings at Toey Dim Sum

Delicious Dumplings at Toey Dim Sum

If you are sick of soup and pad thai head to Toey Dim Sum for dumplings, buns, noodles, fish and steamed meat delights.  It is filled with locals, there isn’t an English menu and most of the staff speak only Thai, so you just need to point out what you would like from the baskets in the display cabinet and they cook it straight away for you.  The small steam baskets cost 20TBH and the large 30TBH.

Pretty cheap, but the bill can add up because everything looks so good you want to try it all.

Toey Dim Sum
Location: South of the Old Town
165/2 Kampaeng Din Alley

Cool dude vibe and some good food too

The rooftop space of Vintage Park

The rooftop space of Vintage Park

Head to Vintage Park to enjoy more Chiang Mai food or just a drink as the place has great atmosphere, good music and they feature projections of music videos or football on the side of the wall if you are bored of your company. The park is made up of a couple of different restaurants, so you have a selection of cuisines to choose from.

Diva’s serve delicious Thai food with mains starting at 69THB.  I recommend you try the Red Pork Curry! It’s a little on the spicy side but the flavours are delicious. If you want rice, you need to order it as an additional.

Grizzly Bear serves ribs, chicken wings and burgers.  The burger was the best Chris has had in a while and the fries were great.  If you ask for cheese it actually comes inside the burger patty.

Sunday is when Vintage Park is at it’s busiest otherwise you might just have the place to yourself.

Vintage Park
Location: South of the Old Town
Rooftop, Surawong Book shop, 54 SridonChai Road

Most satisfying meal we have eaten in Chiang Mai

The Cat House is a little hippy place with a menu mostly of organic vegetarian dishes, but there are a few meat & fish selections. There is a great range of juices with unique combinations such as the banana, black sesame and coconut or the pineapple & basil.

Cat House makes it’s own homemade soy yoghurt, some vegan treats and has an all day breaky menu for late risers. They also sell natural mosquito repellent, which you will need while dining there, or just bring your own. Most dishes range between 80 THB – 110 THB.

Cat House
Location: East of the Old Town
25 Chaiyapoom Rd, Soi1

Out of town local Chiang Mai food

Noodle soup at the Pink Pig

Noodle soup at the Pink Pig

Located in amongst a little street food market is a noodle soup restaurant with a Pink Pig logo, in fact the whole place is decked out in pink! It serves up simple traditional soup dishes at an average cost of 35-45THB.  In the early evening during the week the place fills up with teenage school kids, great for keeping your kids entertained if you have any.  Try the seafood noodle soup it’s delicious!

The Pink Pig (not sure of it’s real name but that’s the logo)
Muen Fam Pla Kot Road 9

To satisfy your market munchies

One of the many flavoursome dishes at the Anusan Market

One of the many flavoursome dishes at the Anusan Market

If you are wandering through the Night Bazaar and feel a little peckish, head to the Anusan Market. Don’t get sucked into the pretty menus of the large international restaurants lining the main market space, instead veer off to the left to the traditional Thai stalls.  Most of the food is at least half the price at 50-60THB and while the décor may not be as modern, the food is delicious.  The Phiang Thai & Indian Food stand makes a very tender Basil Fish and a great Chicken Do Pyaza if you want to try a little bit of Indian.

Phiang Thai & Indian Food
Location: East of the Old Town
Anusan Market, Chang Klan Road

Just a good, decent cheap Thai local restaurant

This is a local Thai place that specialises in Conjee (Jok), hence the name, but it has a great variety of other dishes and a selection of Dim Sums. The food is cheap at 30-80TBH and the drinks are inexpensive at just 15-25TBH.

It’s a big open-air place with plenty of staff to look after you.  It’s great for kids as they can be a little rowdy without interrupting a romantic table next to you.  I highly recommend the marinated streaky pork in a turmeric curry (one of the best curries I have had in Chiang Mai) or if you are sick of rice and noodles, try the roasted fish, pork or chicken with vegetables.

Jok Sompet
Location: Old Town
Near Chang Puak Gate on Sri Phum Road

Get some pork on your fork!

Thai Cowgirl and her stewed pork

Thai Cowgirl and her stewed pork – the best in Chiang Mai

If you are after a simple dish done well then head to the North Gate Market and try some of the Pork served up by the Thai Cowgirl. Khao kha moo is a well known dish of Thailand simply served with rice and a hard boiled egg.  A container of fermented cabbage sits on the table along with a dish of chilli and garlic.

Don’t let the amount of fat and skin put you off, as you will not get any of that on your plate after the Cowgirl serves it up.  It is the most tender pork in Chiang Mai, one we will definitely miss.  If you arrive at the market reasonably early, you will be served quickly. A late arrival and you might need to join the queue!  And the best bit, it only costs 30TBH per dish.

Cowgirl’s Khao Kha Moo
Location: North Gate
Manee Nopparat Road

Romance on the river front

Delicious food at the Antique House but bring your mosquito repellant

Delicious food at the Antique House but bring your mosquito repellent

Located on a floating platform on the Mae Ping is the Antique House.  Here you will find an extensive menu of Northern and Central Thai dishes in a very romantic setting, besides the mosquitoes (bring your repellent).   The live music is terrible, but if you sit outside you won’t have to listen to it.  Try the Burmese Curry, it was the best dish we ordered, and we ordered a few!

Antique House
Located: East of the Old Town along Mae Ping River
Chiang Mai – Lamphun Road

Spiciest dish we ate

The almost inedible dish we attempted to eat (correction, Chris passed, I struggled through) was at the Bus Bar located next to the Iron Bridge over the Mae Ping.  Pork with a spicy salad, which the waiter said was not too spicy, was by far the spiciest dish we have eaten and I don’t mind a little heat.  I challenge you to go try the dish and let me know how you go!

Besides the spicy Chiang Mai food, the Bus Bar has a great atmosphere to have a few beers and listen to live music, which is actually pretty good. The dishes are also reasonable at an average of 60-120TBH.

Bus Bar
Located: East of the Old Town
Next to the Iron Bridge

Just like Grandmas place

Red Curry with Pumpkin and Beef at Peppermint Coffee House

Red Curry with Pumpkin and Beef at Peppermint Coffee House

The Peppermint Coffee House is a popular place with Westerners down the little lane of Soi 5.  The menu is a mixture of Thai Food, massive slices of pizza and burgers – perfect for the average backpacker.  There is also a range of iced teas to try, all listing their therapeutic qualities.  The staff are very welcoming and aim to please which is one of the main reasons for recommending this place. Average Thai meals are 70-80TBH, Pizza’s are 79TBH and Burgers 179THB.

Peppermint Coffee House
Location: Old Town
Soi 5 Ratchadamnoen

Very tasty side dishes

Red Roast Pork at Kowtom Sangtawn

Red Roast Pork at Kowtom Sangtawan

Off the beaten track in a big shed is Kowtom Sangtawan serving traditional Thai cuisine to the locals.  The family run restaurant is spacious and extremely clean, but it was the Chinese Lettuce with Crispy Pork and a buttery sauce that won us over.  Super fresh and a whole lot of garlic butter deliciousness.  Most dishes were priced at 50-100 TBH.

Kowtom Santawan
Location: South of the Old Town
Kampaeng Din Alley

Café, Juices, Desserts

Quiet café away from the action

Tree Sis is a cute little coffee shop with great smoothies and homemade biscuits.  It’s not cheap as it is conveniently located next to some lovely, up market hotels. But is a really nice environment, perfect if you need to get a little peace and quiet or get some work done.  It is small so the best place is to sit is out the front where the seating is relatively comfortable and they have a light mist spraying to keep you cool.

Tree Sis
Location: Old Town
Corner of Signharat Road and Intawarorot Rd

The perfect atmosphere to get some work done over a coffee

One of the many spaces within the Kaweh Cafe

One of the many spaces within the Kaweh Cafe

Kaweh Café is a great place to come if you need some quiet time to work or Skype as the place is spacious and almost resembles a gallery space.  The menu is simple with coffees, tea and a few smoothies.  They also have a few biscuits and cakes if you need to snack on something.  The staff are super friendly, even giving Jack a big slice of green tea crepe cake just because they thought he was cute. They also played with him to give us a little break, which is a big bonus!

The wifi is good and the atmosphere is peaceful, perfect for a little down time.

Kaweh Cafe
Location: Nimmanhemin
Corner Sirimangkalajarn Road and Lane 9

For some healthy juice action

Khun Kae’s Juice Bar is like any other juice bar in Chiang Mai, but with some added bonuses.  You can find yourself a pure veggie juice as well as ingredients such as spirulina, wheatgrass and sprouts.

Our favourite juice was the Spinach, Carrot, Beetroot, Parsley, Ginger and Lemon combo.  Very refreshing and you felt instantly healthy! Juices are 40TBH.

Khun Kae’s Juice Bar
Located: Old Town
Soi 7 Moon Muang Road

Could this be the tastiest cake in Chiang Mai?

Oh my goodness, what a treat at Baking Mania

Oh my goodness, what a treat at Baking Mania

Baking Mania is a very cute little café attached to the Artel Hotel in Nimmanhaemin where you will find some deliciously indulgent cakes.  If you like a crepe cake, you are in luck, as you will find a variety alongside trifles, chocolate and orange cakes, banana pancakes and other naughty treats.  Even their iced teas are indulgent, served with fruit and a generous serving of sugar!

Baking Mania
Located: Nimmanhaemin
Soi 13

Just another juice place with a lovely lady

If juices are your thing, then Pen’s Smoothies is worth a try.  She has the usual combinations with a few different ones thrown in and they all range from 30-40THB.  Also on the menu is a bowl of muesli, yoghurt and fresh fruit if you are looking for something light for breakfast. This has become my local and she has befriended Jack by always giving him some apple to eat while we wait.

Pen’s Smoothies
Located: Old Town
Somphet Market Soi 6

The ultimate pimped up ice-cream

Incredible ice cream at the Saturday Walking Market

Incredible ice cream at the Saturday Walking Market

If you are looking for a sweet treat, then head to the Saturday Walking Market and about half way along tucked in a side food area is Ice Mania.  Choose from a handful of ice-cream flavours, pick your fillings to be mashed through the ice-cream and the topping you want just to add a little more sugar.  Within minutes you will have a pimped up ice-cream made right in front of you.  Oh, and if you are feeling really indulgent for an extra 5TBH you can have a generous spray of whipped cream on top.

A big cup of ice cream is 50TBH and worth every penny.

Ice Mania
Located: South of the Old Town
Saturday Walking Market

This list could have kept growing and growing as we ate our way around Chiang Mai.  Whether you try some of the places listed above or discover many of the street food vendors, cafes and restaurants yourself, we are sure you won’t be disappointed

Happy eating!!

4 Comments on Chiang Mai food and places to eat on a budget

  1. Thai food always looks fresh, nutritious and healthy. I loved my pad thai dishes and sticky rice served with mango. Chang Mai has even more to offer in terms of food than Bangkok. What was your favourite dish?

    • I love the soups…so simple and cheap, ideal for travelling on a budget. Thai food can be healthy, but unfortunately a lot of dishes have MSG and also sugary sauces! You can however, ask some stall holders not to add MSG which can make the meals a little better for you. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this post on Chiang Mai food. I’ll be travelling there in November. Hope to enjoy it. Any recommendation on must try food?

    • My choice would be to try the Khao kha moo at the North Market and also head to Jae Noodle in the Somphet Market. Enjoy, you can’t really go wrong if you head to markets!

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