Chiang Mai Dining

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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 river with the finest Thai cuisine, or enjoy the informal atmosphere of a traditional khantoke dinner.
Photo by Daniel Nahabedian
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    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. Hot pot buffets are a favorite type of meal: They offer a wide selection of raw ingredients to be cooked at the table during long gatherings, which forces guests to slow down and enjoy each other's company. The most famous place to eat hot pot in Chiang Mai is the Hot Pot Buffet, located near Kad Suan Kaew. It can be difficult to find, so don’t be afraid to ask for directions.
    Photo by Daniel Nahabedian
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    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 (fried basil with chicken and rice) with som tam (papaya salad) as a side. For a milder experience, ask for fried chicken with khaw niaw (sticky rice) or moo ping (barbecued pork on a stick) with sweet and spicy sauce. Khao soi (a noodle soup/curry) and Chiang Mai sausages are also must-try dishes. The most popular spots around the city are at Chiang Mai Gate and the North Gate.
    Photo by John Lander/age fotostock
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    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 Chiang Mai. For giant pizzas and Caesar salads in a cozy atmosphere, try Pizza e Vino in the city center, across from Tha Phae Gate. Check out Favola, an Italian restaurant at Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort, and Limoncello, just outside the Su Thep district.
    Photo courtesy of La Terrasse
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    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 South East Asia. Tucked away from the main road is Akha Ama coffee shop, offering a variety of coffee drinks including intricate latte foam art. The Nimmanhaemin area is also lined with numerous cafés that allow patrons to enjoy their espresso with free internet. If you’re after bigger local brands, look for Wawee Coffee or Nacha. Enjoy your cup of joe while people-watching on Ratchadamnoen Road in the Old City.
    Photo courtesy of Dmitry Dzema/Akha Ama Coffee
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    Fine Dining along the River
    Thai dining isn't just about small restaurants and street stalls. Eating at the fancier restaurants along the Mae 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 it, especially if you’re looking for a quiet, romantic experience. Closest to the city is The Riverside, a restaurant located on the eastern bank of the river which also offers 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 ambiance.
    Photo by Thomas Stankiewicz/age fotostock
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    Vegetarian Bounty
    From Western-style salads to flavorful Thai curries and noodle dishes, 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 cuisine near the Old City, try Beetroot Stories café, behind Wawee Coffee near Thapae Gate, or visit Free Bird Cafe, Pun Pun, or Blue Diamond Cafe. (The latter is a good place to go with your meat-eating friends.) In the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood, you can make your own salad with unique dressings at Salad Concept.
    Photo by Daniel Nahabedian
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    Traditional Dinner and Dancing
    For an excellent Lanna-style dining experience, a traditional khantoke dinner is a must. A northern Thai custom, khantoke dinners are offered by wealthy hosts to their guests during special ceremonies. Dancers in classical costumes perform dances such as the Fingernail Dance or the hypnotizing Sword Dance while guests enjoy an unlimited supply of finger food. No chairs, tables, or cutlery here: The atmosphere is informal and relaxed. Dress comfortably and head to the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center for a khantoke dinner, followed by a small explanation of various hill tribe customs. Or try the Kantoke Palace if you’d rather stay closer to the city center.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Elegant Champagne Brunch
    The best way to recover from a night of partying in Chiang Mai is with a luxurious champagne 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 and their Terraces restaurant offers a delectable Italian menu.
    Photo by Kristen Fortier