Chiang Mai is in northern Thailand, an hour and a half plane ride from Bangkok (between 9-12 hours by car, train or bus), and is surrounded by mountains, national parks and rice fields.
The air is cleaner in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok, the pace of life is slower, and the people are incredibly friendly. It’s also a glutton’s gourmet as you are spoiled for choice for cheap but excellent restaurants.
That is why, every time I go to Chiang Mai, there are certain cheap restaurants I always frequent as the food is consistently wonderful.
Hofbrauhaus is one Chiang Mai’s best cheap restaurants. A wonderful German restaurant, right in the middle of the Night Market, I ate Christmas Eve dinner here one year with my parents, and was not disappointed. It’s large inside, has a nice outdoor seating area overlooking the Night Market and friendly staff who are helpful but not overly solicitous.
Hofbrauhaus serves delicious pastas and pizzas, as well as all the German sausages and sauer kraut you can eat. Their Thai dishes are good, the portions are huge and their desserts are amazing. Try their steaks too – they’re perfectly cooked.
Chang Klan Rd., Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai- 053 276989
Aroon Rai has been open for more than 50 years, and is famous for its typical northern Thai food. (It’s also famous as it was featured in the Hollywood movie “Air America”). They’re known for their chicken curry, som tam (spicy papaya salad) and fried fish, and also for their cheap prices (less than $1.50 for an average meal).
Aroon Rai is a family owned restaurant, staffed by mother, sister and daughters and they’re friendly too. My favorite here is the chicken satay and sticky rice and, of course, mango and sticky rice for dessert.
43 Kotchasarn Road, Chiang Mai – 053 276947
The Riverside is one of Chiang Mai’s most well known restaurants and is, as the name suggests, by the river. Their menu is enormous, more than 500 choices, and they also have an extensive drinks menu (their draft cider is really good).
They serve a mix of Thai and Western food, so you can choose from Thai favorites like Tom Yam Gung and deep fried fish in chilis sauce or pizza, sandwiches, salads, steaks, and fish and chips.
The Riverside has a good choice of vegetarian items too and an extensive desserts menu (their homemade apple pie with ice cream is delicious). You can eat inside or outside on the terrace overlooking the water. Just be warned you’re better wearing mosquito repellent if you choose the outside option after dark – it is pretty though watching all the boats go by.
9-11 Charoenrat Road, Chiang Mai – 053 243239
J J Café is popular in Chiang Mai with now three locations. They serve a mix of Thai dishes, Western food and baked goods, which are delicious, so it’s popular with expats.
My favorite foods here are the breakfast omelettes, the cheeseburgers, and the make-your-own sandwiches, where you can choose all the fillings and the type of bread you want. They also make homemade yoghurt, and have delicious coffees and lattes.
The branch I like the best is in the Old City, but there’s also another one near the Night Market that’s great too.
Montri Hotel, Old City, Chiang Mai – 053 2340007