Don’t get me wrong, I love Thai food. However, I can eat just so much of it consecutively. Thus, each week I have to balance out my Thai and Western food consumption.
Chiang Mai is one of the major digital nomad centers of the world, and thus there are a plethora of Western restaurants, cafes and markets available. In the basement of the Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center and other locations around town is Rimping, an international food market. It’s not always the cheapest (a bag of tortillas are over $10!) but you can find great deals now and then (1kg of natural peanut butter for $5.85).
One of the first things I did in my new condo was purchase kitchen equipment, including a portable stove, pan /and a kettle. Each week I have a small allowance for purchasing foods at Rimping to eat at home. However, sometimes I really just want a meal out. Here are some of my favorite Western restaurants to visit. This is not a complete list of all the Western restaurants in Chiang Mai; I don’t think you could visit them all in a lifetime. Nor is this an awards presentation of the best in town. They are simply my favorite, and ones I frequent.
Be Beez Cafe
This happens to be the very first place I ate and slept at in Chiang Mai back in November 2015, and I’ve been going back ever since. Located in the Old Town near the Tha Phae (East) Gate, Be Beez Cafe and Guesthouse is a rustic and charming little establishment. It actually gives new meaning to those hackneyed terms. While Bee also serves Thai food, her English breakfast is one of the best I’ve had outside the UK.
In fact, I’ve eaten at Be Beez more than any other place in Chaing Mai when it comes to Western food. I’ve tried many of the menu items, and I’ve never had a bad meal. The pancake is cooked Chiang Mai style, which means it tastes like a delicious American pancake, but it’s five times thicker. The hamburger is big and cooked just right. Even the omelet is amazing, which is hard to find in SE Asia. My recommendation is the Aussie Breakfast for 160 baht (about $4.50). Open Mon-Sun 8 am to 10 pm. Click here for the location on Google Maps or website.
By Hand Pizza Cafe
In November 2015, I found this place and immediately fell in love. A week later, I invited a bunch of bloggers there to celebrate several of their birthdays, including two Italian bloggers, telling them that the pizza was great by Italian standards. After dinner, they all agreed! The owner happens to be Dutch, but he hand built his oven after watching documentaries of Italian master chefs. With imported ingredients, the pizzas are literally perfect. They really don’t need any further publicity, as there’s hardly a night when every seat isn’t taken. Open Mon-Sun 5 pm to 10:30 pm. Click here for the location on Google Maps.
This restaurant was recommended to me by my good friend Louise, who had been living in Chiang Mai for a couple months. As sushi is my favorite food, it was at the top of my priority list to visit. I first went there to celebrate moving into my new condo, and I’ve been back several times since. The sushi is a fantastic quality, and you can get a filling meal for under $6. They don’t just serve sushi either. Several other Japanese dishes are available. Personally I’d recommend the salmon and avocado roll while avocados are in season, although it is a little pricey (129 baht, or about $3.70). Other sushi sets are as cheap as 60 baht. Open Mon-Sun 5:30 pm to 11:30 pm. Click here for the location on Google Maps.
I don’t remember who recommended this place, or if I just found it on the map. Either way, I’m so glad I went there. Although the burger is a little pricey (I’ve only been there once on my budget), it was absolutely delicious. I had the signature Double Double with beef (a luxury in Buddhist Thailand), Cheddar cheese, bacon, caramelized onions and Beast Sauce. The fries were seasoned and perfectly cooked (crispy on the outside, mushy on the inside). As a meal, it was 280 baht ($8). There are other cheaper locations with great burgers (like a small stand near the north gate of Old Town) but this place is my favorite since I’ve been in Thailand. Open Mon-Sat 11 am to 2 pm and 5 to 9:30 pm. Click here for the location on Google Maps or website.
Truth be told, I kinda just stumbled into this place. It was only after I posted my experience on social media that several of my friends said it was their favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai. They serve all kinds of Western dishes for breakfast and lunch. I got the BLT with avocado (my favorite sandwich) and it didn’t disappoint. The price was really good too (only 115 baht, or $3.30). I plan to get the English breakfast with hash browns the next time I go. Open Mon-Sun 7:30 am to 8 pm. Click here for the location on Google Maps.
For my Thai food, I usually just find little hole in the walls to eat at. Many of them are street carts or literally the front room of a local’s house. However, there are some that stand out more than others.
Guu Fusion & Roti
I found this place one day wandering around for a cheap lunch. Located on Nimman Road a couple minutes south of the Maya Shopping Center, they serve a large variety of both savory and sweet roti, as well as curries and rice dishes. Their smoothies and coffees are great too, although you do get a free pot of tea with every meal. My only dislike of the place is I can’t stop eating food there. After the basil chicken roti (my recommendation), I usually follow up with a pineapple or banana roti. The best part is that they’re really cheap. You can get two roti and a smoothie for under 200 baht ($6). Open Mon to Sun 9:30 am to 1:30 am (12:00 am on Sun). Click here for the location on Google Maps.
Cowgirl’s Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak (ข้าวขาหมูช้างเผือก)
Not every great restaurant in Chiang Mai is…well…a restaurant. Near the north gate of Old Town is Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak, otherwise known as the Cowgirl, or Cowboy Lady. Her menu is simple. Pork. You can get a small or a large, with rice or an egg on the side. The cost is what you would expect of street food, about 30 baht a dish. I’ve been back there a few times, although I learned to get there early if I want a seat. Open Mon-Sun 5 pm to 2 am. Click here for the location on Google Maps, or a great article by EatingThaiFood.com.
I haven’t actually been to the Coconut Shell, I only ordered food delivered from there. Every now and then a meal stands out above others, and the Pad Thai I had from the Coconut Shell was easily the best in Thailand. Heaps of noodles cooked properly, plenty of tasty shrimp and just the right amount of vegetables. From the pictures I’ve seen, the restaurant looks really fancy too. Curries and other dishes are literally served in a giant coconut shell. Someday I’ll have to experience that for myself. The price is obviously more than street food, but still cheaper than most restaurants. Open Sun-Fri 10 am to 10 pm. Click here for the location on Google Maps or website.
Maya Night Market
This isn’t a single restaurant, but rather my favorite collection of street food in Chiang Mai. On various nights of the week (I have yet to determine which ones), several food stalls are set up outside the Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center at the edge of the Nimman neighborhood. Not all the food appeals to me, but several vendors serve stuff I love. Particularly enjoyable are the Gyoza (Thai/Chinese potstickers), dumplings, spring rolls and sushi. Unfortunately the sushi lady isn’t always there, which can be disappointing. The best part is that the price is dirt cheap, as in 10 pieces of sushi for 50 baht ($1.50).
When I’m not taking a break from Thai food, there are plenty of places I frequent. I found a hole in the wall (literally some lady’s home) behind my condo where I get my Thai omelet and rice everyday (except Sunday) for 20 baht ($0.57). I often eat lunch in the basement of the Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center, where there are permanent “street food” stalls set up. My favorite dish there is a plate of teriyaki chicken and rice for 45 baht. And there are always new and different carts on the street showing up with delicious food.
Please comment if you know more good places to eat in Chiang Mai. I’ll be here for a few months each year, and I’m always looking for new places to eat.