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Chiang Mai Dining

Dine Like the Locals
Chiang Mai Dining
There are myriad tantalizing dining options in Chiang Mai. Hunker down and sample the fresh and spicy street food, relax alongside the Ping River with the finest Thai cuisine, or enjoy the informal atmosphere of a traditional khantoke dinner.
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    Dine Like the Locals
    Dine Like the Locals
    Thai people don’t typically eat alone, and dinners often involve an informal gathering of friends and family around a big table, or on the floor of the workplace. There are myriad signature dishes in Chiang Mai, among them the tasty sai ua (spicy northern sausage). The most famous of the city's dishes, however, is khao soi, a spicy noodle soup that is generally served with chicken or beef and comes with egg noodles, a coconut-milk curry sauce, and pickled vegetables. One of the best places to eat the dish in the city is Khao Soi Khun Yai, which is located close to the city center.
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    Fresh Thai Street Food
    Fresh Thai Street Food
    Chiang Mai is rightfully famed for its street fare. Food carts abound after midday, although you can find some that open early morning. Food is prepared on the spot; just point out what you want and enjoy it, sitting on a plastic stool on the sidewalk. Those who aren’t afraid of spicy food can order pad krapow gai (basil chicken and rice) with som tam (papaya salad) as a side. For a milder experience, ask for fried chicken with khao niaw (sticky rice) or moo ping (skewered grilled pork0 with sweet and spicy sauce. Khao soi and Chiang Mai sausages are also must-try dishes. The most popular spots for street food around the city are at Chiang Mai Gate and the North Gate. For a real treat just outside the city head to Huay Tung Tao Lake, a man-made reservoir which is an ideal spot for lounging outside, paddling, and sampling hearty local fare in huts at the water's edge.
    Photo by John Lander/age fotostock
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    Fine French and Italian Cuisine
    Fine French and Italian Cuisine
    There is a surprisingly large selection of good French and Italian restaurants in Chiang Mai. Most of the French restaurants have French owners and clientele, and though prices are high compared to Thai food, you can enjoy exquisite French dishes for much less than they cost in Europe or the United States. Some of the more popular choices near the Old City are La Terrasse, Chez Marco, and Le Bistrot de Chiang Mai. For something that is both rarefied and a little different, David's Kitchen is making waves with its fusion of classic gastronomy, organic produce, and Thai cooking flair. For Italian food in a classy hotel setting check out Favola, an Italian restaurant at Le Meridien Chiang Mai.
    Photo courtesy of La Terrasse
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    Chiang Mai Coffee Culture
    Chiang Mai Coffee Culture
    Thailand hasn't always been known for its coffee production, but a few hill tribes from the north have joined efforts to produce some of the finest sustainable and fair-trade coffee blends in Southeast Asia. Tucked away from the main road is Akha Ama coffee shop, offering a variety of coffee drinks, some of which include intricate latte foam art. The Nimmanhaemin area is also lined with numerous cafés that allow patrons to enjoy their espresso with free Internet. Choice spots around the city include Library Coffee, Good Morning Chiang Mai, and Tanita Coffee House & Thai Cuisine, where excellent coffee is served up alongside Thai favorites like curries and mango sticky rice.
    Photo courtesy of Dmitry Dzema/Akha Ama Coffee
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    Fine Dining along the River
    Fine Dining along the River
    Thai dining isn't just about small restaurants and street stalls. Eating at the fancier restaurants along the Ping River is an opportunity to enjoy some of the best Thai food while listening to soft live music among relaxing scenery. Prices may be a little higher but the atmosphere and setting more than make up for the price, especially if you’re looking for a quiet, romantic experience. The Riverside Bar & Restaurant on the eastern bank of the river serves a range of international dishes. Other popular choices include Paak Dang, away from the tourist trail, and Comedara, set in a beautiful old colonial house with a very homey ambience.
    Photo by Thomas Stankiewicz/age fotostock
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    Vegetarian Bounty
    Vegetarian Bounty
    From Western-style salads to flavorful Thai curries and noodle dishes, vegans and vegetarians in Chiang Mai have plenty of options. If you go to a restaurant that does not have a dedicated vegetarian menu, don’t fret: You can substitute tofu for meat in most dishes. For restaurants that specialize in vegetarian and vegan cuisine near the Old City, try Free Bird Cafe, Anchan Restaurant, Pun Pun, or Blue Diamond The Breakfast Club. (The latter is a good place to go with your meat-eating friends.)
    Photo by Daniel Nahabedian
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    Traditional Dinner and Dancing
    Traditional Dinner and Dancing
    For an excellent and authentic dining experience, a traditional khantoke dinner is a must. Dress comfortably and head to the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center to experience this northern Thai custom. Performers in classical costumes dance the Fingernail Dance and the hypnotizing Sword Dance and the like, while guests enjoy an unlimited supply of finger food. No chairs, tables, or cutlery here: The atmosphere is informal and relaxed. For something evocative and authentic, but lighter on the entertainment, make for Reun Come In where servers dressed in traditional clothing dish up the full range of regional Lanna dishes.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Elegant Champagne Brunch
    Elegant Champagne Brunch
    The best way to recover from a night of partying in Chiang Mai is with a luxurious champagne Sunday brunch. Enjoy the chic atmosphere of restaurants at hotels such as Le Méridien or Shangri-La, which provide gourmet cuisine, live music, and free-flowing coffee and champagne. Menus include Western-style fare like omelets, antipasti, sushi, and decadent desserts. If you prefer to take a leisurely drive (or tuk tuk ride) outside the city on a Sunday morning, the Four Seasons Resort on Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road is a popular brunch spot at the Rim Tai Kitchen.
    Photo by Kristen Fortier