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Chiang Mai Dining

Dine Like the Locals
Chiang Mai Dining
There are many 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 oua (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, located close to the city center.
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    Casual Eats
    Casual Eats
    Chiang Mai is rightfully famed for its street fare. Food carts abound after midday, although you can find some that open in the early morning. Food is prepared on the spot; just point out what you want and soon you'll be enjoying it while 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 (green papaya salad) as a side. For a milder experience, ask for fried chicken with khao niaw (sticky rice) or moo ping (skewered grilled pork 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 eateries have French owners and clientele, and though prices are high compared to what you'd spend at their Thai-food counterparts, you can enjoy exquisite French meals for much less than what they'd 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 both rarefied and a little different, David's Kitchen is making waves with its fusion of classic gastronomy and Thai cooking flair. For Italian food in a chic hotel setting, check out Favola, an Italian restaurant at Le Méridien 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 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. Down a quiet road in the student quarter is Akha Ama Cafe, 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 Good Morning Chiang Mai, and Tanita Coffee House & Thai Cuisine, where excellent java is served up alongside Thai favorites like curries and mango with 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 eateries 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 here, but the atmosphere and setting should more than make up for the prices—especially if you’re looking for a quiet, romantic experience. The Riverside Bar & Restaurant on the eastern bank serves a range of Thai and 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 will have plenty of options. If you wind up in 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. (Either of the latter two would be a good place to go with meat eaters in tow.)
    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 display of northern Thai customs. Performers in classic costumes do the Rice Winnowing Dance and the hypnotizing Fire Sword Dance and the like, while guests enjoy an unlimited supply of finger food. No chairs or cutlery here: The atmosphere is informal and relaxed. For something evocative and authentic but lighter on the organized entertainment, make for Reun Come In, where servers dressed in traditional clothing dish up the full range of regional Lan Na plates.
    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, free-flowing coffee and champagne, and sometimes live music. Menus include Western-style fare like omelettes, 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 offers a popular brunch at its Rim Tai Kitchen.
    Photo by Kristen Fortier