Like Bangkok, Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations. It receives millions of visitors annually and is without a doubt the most visited city in Northern Thailand. With so many tourists flocking to Chiang Mai each year, it isn’t surprising that the city has a wealth of restaurants to choose from.
As always, we try to find the best places to eat when we travel and that’s exactly what we sought to do when coming up with this Chiang Mai food guide. We consulted trusted food blogs and crowd review sites to find the best examples of local dishes in Chiang Mai. Things like the best khao soi, the best kai yang, and the best suki are all represented in this guide. Also included is arguably the city’s most popular eatery – a humble street food stall offering braised pork leg by the legendary Cowboy Hat Lady!
If you’re heading up north and wondering where to pull up a chair for some great food in Chiang Mai, then you’ve come to the right place.
1. Khao Soi Khun Yai
As I described in our Chiang Rai travel guide, every trip to Northern Thailand should begin with a bowl of khao soi. It’s the quintessential Northern Thai dish of crispy and soft egg noodles in a creamy, curry-like sauce made with coconut milk. It’s typically made with chicken or beef, though some places offer versions with pork, shrimp, or fish as well. It’s usually served with a side of chopped red onions, pickled cabbage, and a wedge of lime. If you like, you can mix a packet of pork rinds into your khao soi for some extra crunch.
We had khao soi several times in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and the version here at Khao Soi Khun Yai was our favorite. I didn’t see any signs for Khao Soi Khun Yai so look out for this open air setup soon as you exit and make a left from the Old City North Gate. It’ll be on your left through a small gate. Khao Soi Khun Yai is popular and open only from 10AM-2PM, so try to arrive early to avoid running out of food.
Like many of the eateries we visited in Chiang Mai, we learned about this place from Mark Wiens and eatingthaifood.com. Mark’s the man when it comes to Thai food so when he said Khao Soi Khun Yai offers the best khao soi in Chiang Mai, we knew we had to try it. And he was right. It was delicious, rich and creamy without being too sweet.
Khao Soi Khun Yai
Address: Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Operating Hours: 10AM-2PM, Mon-Sat
What to Order: Khao soi
Expect to Pay: THB 35 per bowl
How to Get There: Khao Soi Khun Yai is located just outside the North Gate (Chang Phueak) of the Old City. Exit through the North Gate and make a left. You’ll see a gate with Khao Soi Khun Yai just inside.
2. Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak (Cowboy Hat Lady)
If khao soi is Chiang Mai’s most famous dish, then this food stall is arguably its most popular. Manning the stall is this lady badass wearing a 10 gallon cowboy hat. Known as the Cowboy Hat Lady, she’s been described as a Chiang Mai institution with a reputation for serving some of the best khao kha moo in town. Khao kha moo is braised pork leg cooked in Chinese five spice and served over rice with a medium-boiled egg.
From the moment her stall opens at 5PM, it’s constantly flooded with people looking to get their khao kha moo fix. And not just people on foot either. Cars and motorbikes would stop by the side of the road and get her food to go!
Here’s a small order of Cowboy Hat Lady’s famous khao kha moo. It’s a little sweet and incredibly tender, so tender that you could practically shake the meat off the bone just by smacking the table! Don’t miss this.
Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak
Address: Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Operating Hours: 5PM-12MN, daily
What to Order: Khao kha moo (stewed pork leg with rice)
Expect to Pay: THB 30 per small order
How to Get There: Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak is one of the food stalls across the street from the Old City North Gate (Chang Phueak). Just look for the cowboy-hat-wearing lady holding a cleaver in her hand. It’ll probably be the busiest stall there.
3. Suki Koka
Located in the same cluster of food stalls as the Cowboy Hat Lady, this bowl of Thai suki was one of Ren’s favorite things to eat in Chiang Mai. Served wet or dry, Suki Koka’s Thai suki consists of vegetables cooked with mung bean noodles and a mix of seafood or your choice of meat. Like Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak, it’s one of the most popular eateries in this cluster of North Gate food stalls. Don’t leave without eating at both.
Suki Koka makes their Thai suki with heaps of cabbage cooked briefly in a wok at high heat, keeping it crunchy whilst giving it that wonderful smokey wok hei flavor. Ren had this dry version with pork (suki haeng moo). It was absolutely delicious, especially when eaten with the suki sauce which Ren thought was the best part about the dish.
I had the suki soup (suki nam talay) made with different types of seafood like squid, shrimp, and fish balls. It was fantastic too.
Address: Thanon Manee Nop Parat, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Operating Hours: 5:30PM-12MN, daily
What to Order: Suki haeng (dry suki), Suki nam (suki soup)
Expect to Pay: THB 40 per order of suki
How to Get There: If you’re facing the Old City, then Suki Koka will be to the right of the Cowboy Hat Lady’s stall.
4. Cherng Doi Roast Chicken
If you’re in the mood for kai yang (roast chicken), then Cherng Doi should be at the top of your list. It’s an Isaan dish that’s now popular throughout Thailand. A whole chicken is often halved and pounded flat before being marinated then slowly grilled over a low charcoal flame.
Along with SP Chicken, Cherng Doi Roast Chicken is often cited for serving some of the best kai yang in Chiang Mai. Both were fantastic, but I preferred Cherng Doi.
Kai yang is an Isaan dish so it’s commonly eaten with som tam (green papaya salad) and sticky rice. The meat was tender and juicy with nicely crisped skin. It’s a little sweet from the marinade and goes very well with the acidity from the som tam and the chewiness of the sticky rice. Delicious!
Cherng Doi Roast Chicken
Address: 2/8 Suk Kasame Rd, ตำบล สุเทพ Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Operating Hours: 11AM-10PM, Tues-Sun (closed Mon)
What to Order: Kai yang nung krob (roast chicken), som tam
Expect to Pay: Around THB 200 per person with drinks
How to Get There: Cherng Doi Roast Chicken is in the trendy Nimman area. Walking southwest on Nimmanahaeminda Road, make a right into Suk Kasame Road. The restaurant will be on your right.
5. Kiat Ocha
If you like Hainanese chicken rice, then you need to eat at Kiat Ocha. Open since 1957, they’ve been specializing in this Southern China dish for over 60 years now. Hainanese chicken rice consists of whole poached chicken served with oily rice (cooked in chicken fat) and chicken broth soup, along with freshly minced red chilli and garlic, dark soy sauce, and freshly ground ginger.
Kiat Ocha was brimming with people when we were there. They’re only open till 3PM so it’s a great place to have lunch. Ren and I already had lunch before coming here so we could only manage the small khao man kai set, but two people on empty stomachs can easily share the large, maybe even the jumbo.
If you’re a fan of satay, then you’ll be pleased to know that Kiat Ocha is just as famous for its satay as it is for its Hainanese chicken rice. Originally from Indonesia, satay refers to a family of seasoned, skewered, and grilled meat served with a sauce, most commonly peanut sauce. It’s a popular dish throughout many countries in Southeast Asia.
The small plate of their khao man kai set comes with a few pieces of boiled chicken and a chunk of congealed blood. I believe the larger servings come with different types of offal as well. The oily rice is served on the side along with some chicken broth soup, fresh ginger and chili, and a fermented soy bean dipping sauce.
The chicken was tender and the rice nice and fragrant. Hainanese chicken rice isn’t the most colorful dish around but it’s incredibly tasty, much tastier than it looks, especially when eaten with all the fixins. I’ve become a big fan of it and Kiat Ocha’s version was delicious.
We shared an order of moo satay as well which consisted of ten sticks of pork satay served with cucumber relish and a peanut sauce. This was delicious too so be sure to order both.
Address: 42-43 Intawarorot Road, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Operating Hours: 6AM-3PM, daily
What to Order: Khao man kai set (Hainanese chicken rice), moo satay (pork)
Expect to Pay: THB 100 per large khao man kai set, THB 50 per ten skewers of moo satay
How to Get There: Kiat Ocha is located in the heart of Chiang Mai Old City not too far from Three Kings Monument Square. You can refer to the location map below to see exactly where it is.
6. Khantoke Dinner at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center
If you’re looking for a dose of culture with your meal, then be sure to enjoy a khantoke dinner at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center. A khantoke is a traditional Thai Lanna lunch or dinner offered to guests to celebrate any number of occasions.
You can enjoy a khantoke dinner and show at several venues in Chiang Mai, but Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center is credited for being the first to offer it to tourists. They’ve been doing it since 1971. It costs THB 570 per person inclusive of round trip transportation, but you can purchase advanced tickets through Kkday for just THB 500 each.
The term “khantoke” specifically refers to the round pedestal tray (pictured below) used as a dining table during the meal. Diners sit on the floor enjoying dishes like Burmese pork curry, green chili paste, minced pork in tomato-chili paste, and fried pork rinds while being treated to a series of traditional Thai Lanna dances. You can check out my post on the khantoke dinner at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center for more pictures and information.
Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center
Address: Hai Ya Rd, Tambon Hai Ya, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Operating Hours: 7-10PM, daily
What to Order: Khantoke dinner
Expect to Pay: THB 500 per person through Kkday
How to Get There: The Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center is located just south of the Old City. Round trip transportation is included in the dinner price.
7. SP Chicken
As described, SP Chicken is often cited as being one of the best places to have kai yang in Chiang Mai. It’s popular with both locals and tourists so be prepared for a long queue! Luckily for us, it wasn’t too far from where we were staying so we ordered half a chicken to go and ate it at our hotel.
One of the reasons why their chicken is so good is that it’s roasted on vertical spits with the heat source coming from the side, instead of the bottom. This unique method eliminates the chance of oil dripping down onto hot coals and causing a grease fire to burn the chicken. Brilliant!
The roast chicken was delicious, its meat moist and tender with crisp, flavorful skin. Their chickens are pretty small though so two people may want to share a whole bird. As described, kai yang is an Isaan specialty so SP Chicken serves many other Isaan dishes as well. We enjoyed our roast chicken with a tasty order of som tam.
Address: Samlan Rd Soi 1, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Operating Hours: 10AM-5PM, daily
What to Order: SP roast chicken
Expect to Pay: THB 150 per whole roast chicken
How to Get There: SP Chicken is located in Chiang Mai Old City, just around the corner from Wat Phra Singh. Check out the location map below to see exactly where it is.
8. Tong Tem Toh
I learned about Tong Tem Toh from eatingthaifood.com. It’s a trendy Thai restaurant in the Nimman area known for serving good Northern Thai food. We got here early for dinner and nearly every table was already taken. By the time we left at around 7PM, there was a pretty big crowd of people waiting outside for a table. If you can, then I suggest coming here early to avoid a long wait.
They have an extensive menu so we weren’t sure what to order, until we had a look around. Nearly every table had this beautiful platter of Northern Thai appetizers so that’s what we decided to get. On it was some sai oua (Northern Thai sausage), nam prik ong (chili-based dip), nam prik noom (roasted banana pepper chili sauce), pork rinds, eggs, and some raw vegetables for dipping.
We asked our server for suggestions and she recommended the barbecued meats as well. Their grill is set up right by the entrance so it’s hard not to notice all this delicious-smelling meat!
If I remember correctly, we got an order of the pork shoulder. I’m not sure if we were just unlucky that day, but ours was a little dry and tough from being overcooked. It wasn’t as enjoyable as the platter of Northern Thai appetizers.
Tong Tem Toh
Address: Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Operating Hours: 7AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: Northern Thai hors d’oeuvres
Expect to Pay: Around THB 250 per person with drinks
How to Get There: Tong Tem Toh is located to the west of Chiang Mai Old City. It may be too far to walk so you may want to take an Uber or Grab there. You can refer to the location map below to see exactly where it is.
9. Huen Phen
I learned about this place from eatingthaifood.com as well. It’s a long-standing restaurant known for khao soi and other Northern Thai specialties. The restaurant has an interesting interior with plenty of knick-knacks to photograph and pore over.
I wanted to try their khao soi but learned that it’s only served for lunch. Boo! I asked my server for recommendations and one of the dishes he suggested was this nam prik noom. You can never go wrong with these Northern Thai chili dips.
He also suggested this dish which was vaguely labeled “chicken in northern soup”. I don’t know what it’s Thai name is, but it’s basically a clear soup made with chicken and different types of vegetables. It wasn’t the most exciting dish around but it was pretty tasty.
Address: 112 Ratchamanka Rd, ตำบล พระสิงห์ Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-4PM, 5-10PM, daily
What to Order: Northern Thai green chili, chicken in soup with vegetables
Expect to Pay: Around THB 200 per person with drinks
How to Get There: Huen Phen is located in the Old City, just south of Wat Chedi Luang on the corner of Ratchamanka and Jhaban Roads.
10. Ploen Ruedee Night Market
As is the case with many of these night bazaars, the food typically isn’t anything to rave about. But what it does lack in quality, it more than makes up for in selection. At Ploen Ruedee Night Market, you’ll find plenty of food stalls offering different types of Thai and Western dishes. It’s a more modern and trendy type of night market with a live cover band and dance floor. The atmosphere is lively and a lot of fun, making it a great place to grab a beer and enjoy a few snacks after a long day under the hot Chiang Mai sun. You can check out this post for more pictures and information.
This VW Kombi repurposed into a cocktail bar was my favorite booth at the night market. Isn’t it cool? These are the types of trendy and fun concepts you can find at Ploen Ruedee Night Market.
Ploen Ruedee Night Market
Address: Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Operating Hours: 5:30PM-12MN, Mon-Sat
How to Get There: Ploen Ruedee Night Market is located east of the Old City. Exit through the Eastern Gate (Tha Phae) and walk straight along Tha Phae Road. Make a right on Chang Klan Road and you’ll see the entrance to the night market on your right. We used Grab to get there but it looks close enough to walk from the Old City.
11. Ristr8to Coffee
I found this place by accident. I was staying in the Nimman area waiting to be picked up for a foraging tour. It was too early for breakfast at my hotel so I walked along Nimmanahaeminda Road and found this trendy specialty coffee shop. I didn’t know it at the time, but Ristr8to is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee known for serving some of the very best coffee in Chiang Mai. Jackpot!
Rist8to offers specialty coffee made from beans sourced from different parts of the world. I wanted something strong so I had the Cigar8to which is rated 6/8 on their strength scale. Bold and full-bodied, it gave me just the jolt of caffeine I was looking for. I’m no expert but this was an excellent cup of coffee.
Rist8to is a trendy hipster coffee shop known for their foam art and colorful coffee names like Satan Latte, Godmother Mocha, and Shakerato from Hell. My Cigar8to came in a regular cup but some of their offerings are served in less conventional vessels like skull glasses and test tubes. If you enjoy good coffee, especially good Instagrammable coffee, then you’re going to love this place.
Address: 15/3 Nimmanhemin Road, Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Operating Hours: 7:08AM-6:08PM, daily
What to Order: Signature coffees
Expect to Pay: Around THB 88-128 per cup
How to Get There: Ristr8to Coffee is located in the Nimman area. It’s on Nimmanahaeminda Road between Lane 3 and 5.
If pictures aren’t enough to whet your appetite, then check out this short video I put together featuring seven of the eateries recommended above.
With Chiang Mai being such a popular tourist destination, you’ll have a ton of restaurants to choose from so I hope this guide can help put you on the right track. We like to experience as much local food when we travel so many of the restaurants on this list feature Northern Thai specialties like khao soi, nam prik, and sai oua.
If you want to go beyond this guide and really sink your teeth into Northern Thai cuisine, then I suggest checking out this awesome Chiang Mai food tour by A Chef’s Tour. It’s a four-hour guided tour that takes you to some of the best local eateries in the city. You’ll visit a local market and several restaurants where you’ll experience interesting dishes like naem, larb, and nam ngiaw. Most of the places you’ll go to are off the tourist circuit and not the type you can easily find on your own. It’s about as deep a local food experience as you can get.
To help you find the places mentioned in this guide, I’ve pinned them all on the map below. It includes a bunch of others as well that we wanted to visit but just couldn’t get to.
To help you with your travel planning, you can refer to our full 6-day Chiang Mai itinerary on Sygic Travel. It’s a more complete version of the map above which includes attraction suggestions as well.
You can also download a copy of our entire 2-week Thailand itinerary in editable Word format by signing up for our FREE newsletter below. It covers Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai. Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy these awesome eateries in Chiang Mai!
For more Chiang Mai travel tips, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand
Kkday sponsored our Khantoke Dinner at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center in exchange for an honest account of our experience. They didn’t ask me to do this. I went through their site and chose this activity on my own volition. As always, all words and opinions expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.
The Kkday links in this post are affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a purchase at NO extra cost to you. We really appreciate your support as it helps us keep this website going. Thank you!
JB and Renée are the Traveleaters behind Will Fly for Food, a travel blog for the gastronomically inclined. They enjoy experiencing food from different cultures so they’ve made it their mission to try every country’s national dish. Read more about them and their National Dish Quest here.