Chiang Mai Budget Dining
No-frills restaurants are very popular throughout Thailand, especially for Thai food. Cheap Western food on the other hand, will cost a bit more, but the same informal atmosphere will prevail when dining on the cheap, with most of the focus being on the food rather than décor and ambience.
Bargain Dining Areas
Finding your favorite bargain place to catch a Thai meal is really up to individual tastes. Fortunately, many of them are often clustered together in one convenient location when it comes to Thai food. For instance, there’s an entire row of shop house eateries on the south side of Three Kings Monument with fish ball noodle soup, chicken and rice, and khao soi (Northern-style curry noodle soup) shops all in succession. There is also another small cluster of very simple restaurants and food stalls gathered next to the 7-11 opposite Soi 13 on the north side of Nimmanhaemin Road. The most special restaurant in that collection is Nong Bee’s Burmese Restaurant, which serves the famous tea leaf salad and several types of savory Burmese curries over rice.
If the weather is getting to you and you want to eat on the cheap in air conditioned comfort, you should head to a mall or major shopping center. For example, the large food court at Kad Suan Kaew fits the bill, allowing you to choose from nearly 20 restaurant stalls while you’re serenaded hourly by the resident Thai Elvis. And if you’re out on a shopping run and hungry, it’s quite convenient that most Tesco Lotus and Big C superstores will have large food courts attached to them as well. Although food courts have their advantages and disadvantages, you can’t beat them for price and convenience in an air conditioned atmosphere.
Farang Food on a Budget
When it comes to finding cheap western food there are a few places that come up in local conversation again and again. For 200 baht or less, many places will fill you up with a taste of something familiar and completely satisfy your cravings.
Just north of the moat, people on the hunt for a pork fillet in wine sauce or even steak tartare can have either at Franco Thai. Serving up garlic-laced food off a small soi behind Computer Plaza, locals in the know make their way back there for French food with value. If you’re on that same side of town, but in the mood for something hearty, Rider’s Corner has been building up a healthy reputation for its wide menu of favorites. If you need a proper English or American breakfast, Riders’ Corner is the place to go. You could also come by at night for a Thai curry or spaghetti and meatballs as well.
If you’re missing your expat food, but craving something fresh or light, Chiang Mai has plenty of options once again. For lighter bargain dining with a fancy feel, many people are fans of Smoothie Blues and The Salad Concept, both on Nimmanhaemin. Smoothie Blues is a great place for a daytime toasted sandwich or bagel and smoothie, while across the street The Salad Concept will fill you up on fresh vegetables. For a light bite where profits go towards local education of Burmese refugees, Freebird Cafe in the middle of the city’s backpacker area gives you a chance to enjoy original smoothies and sandwiches in a very Bohemian atmosphere. Enjoy your food and feel free to strike up a conversation with some of the younger expat crowd that frequents this friendly cafe.
Finally, there are certain simple necessities for westerners to eat every now and then. Luckily, within a few minutes’ walk from Thapae Gate it’s possible to find a good pie, burger or burrito. Americans have been known to find Miguel’s simply from the smell of burritos and nachos drifting onto the streets from their flagship shop outside the northeast corner of the moat. Since opening a few years ago, they’ve established themselves with local expats and Thais alike! Continuing along that same side of the street towards Thapae Gate, you can’t help but smell fries, spicy kebabs, and burgers from Woody’s Burger and then Mike’s Burger, a bit further up. Mike’s has been the institution that all Chiang Mai burgers are compared to for the last few years, whether you prefer them or not.
Finally, some days people from the UK need a good pie and gravy, and that’s that. The old standby for many is Mad Dog Pizza located inside of the moat by the southeast corner. They have a reputation for great pizzas and tasty pies among the local expat crowd, and it’s also a great place to sit and have a drink. The same can be said about the menu and atmosphere over at the UN Irish Pub back inside the moat, though rumor has it their pies are just the way Australians and New Zealanders fancy them.
Address: 19/3 Soi 3, Maneenoparat Road
Free Bird Café
Address: Moon Muang Soi 7
Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Mall
Address: 21 Huay Kaew Road
Mad Dog Pizza
Address: 19/1 Moonmuang Road
Address: 106/1 Chaiyapoom Road Chiang
Tel: 053-874-148 (Old City), 053-334-442 (Nong Hoi)
Address: Chaiyapoom and Chang Moi Intersection
Nong Bee’s Burmese Restaurant
Address: 28 Nimmanhaemin Road
Rider’s Corner Bar & Restaurant
Address: 357, Moon Muang Road
Tel: 087-048-1787, 085-618-8914
Address: 32/8 Nimmanhaemin Soi 6
The Salad Concept
Address: 49/9-10 Nimmanhaemin (at Soi 13)
The UN Irish Pub
Address: 24/1 Rathwithi
Woody Fine Fast Food
Address: 56 Chaiyapoom Road