List of Must-Try Chiang Rai Restaurants
Speaking about what should you eat in Chiang Rai, people usually think that you should grab yourself some bowl of nam ngiao; a renowned Shan noodle soup of the province, which has conquered Chiang Mai folks’ hearts for a while now, but that is not the sole charm of Chiang Rai. Due to it being one of the major coffee production areas of Thailand, it isn’t strange that Chiang Rai has a variety of great cafés. Aside from that, the province is filled with diverse cuisine from multiple cultures; whether it is Tai dining places, Lanna or northern Thai cuisine places, or Western cuisine places finely operated by the local youngsters, not to mention that there are some local food stalls officially acknowledged by the Office of Tourism Authority of Thailand in Chiang Rai.
Today, I would like to share a packed list of Chiang Rai’s impressive restaurants that I have tried. Actually, these are just the tip of the iceberg, but my stomach can’t keep up with the sheer quantity of food if I try it all, so this is it for now.
The Best Pork Blood Soup in Chiang Rai
During my time as a guide, regardless of my well-being, I would frequently spend my morning enjoying the place’s bowl of pork blood and white mugwort soup, because it was that good. Imagine a well-prepped set of offal such as crispy pork intestine, delicious liver, limp hog maw, big pig blood curd mixed with massive pieces of pork patty in a hot yet refreshing soup, and topped with deep-fried shallot and garlic, what a delish superfood.
Although the new layout of Saharodh is relatively more spacious than the former set-up, the place is often crowded with guests, so taking your sweet time too much and you might get yourself some vicious glaring.
Aside from the pork blood soup, I recommend you try Shanghai noodle, it is pleasantly chewy, this dish has been one of my favorites since my younger ages.
Saharodh has many branches, but I am familiar with the Chiang Rai clock-tower one.
The Yellow Truck Coffee
A Coffee Choice for an Early Bird
One of the most popular destinations in Chiang Rai, anyone who plans to visit Chiang Rai might already include the place into their plan since it has something for everyone, pan-fried egg, congee, energizing coffee, soft-boiled egg, you name it, each dish will recharge your early birds’ battery and prepare you for a rough day (but I preferred to wake up late, curse those early-bird friends of mine!)
The place has been serving coffee in Chiang Rai for 35 years, the owner used to be a teacher from Bangkok, but he married a Chiang Rai spouse and decided to quit and open his food stall here. In the past, the place was opened near Café Amazon and there weren’t this many items on the menu; it used to consist of only Thai traditional coffees and youtiao. Oh! And the owner would occasionally perform country music for his customer too, depending on his mood of course. In the old days, the owner utilized his Datsun car as his food stall, decorating it with carved buffalo horns. But nowadays, he is using his third car; a truck, and opening his stall near the town’s clock tower, he wants his stall to be compatible with the local big supermarket and coffee franchise so he designed his coffee place with affordability in mind.
Currently, in the hope to create more jobs for his employees, the owner has established another branch. But the current cafe market in Thailand has become very competitive, so it has become quite taxing for the owner to keep up as well.
The truck usually opens every day from 6.00 – 13.00, except on a rainy day or if the owner is ill.
Another branch of Yellow Truck situated at Sabai Inn, Old Chiang Rai Airport also has the same opening hour, but the branch has a different menu.
Naengnoi Fried Chicken
Chiang Rai Folks’ Favorite Fried Chicken
I’ve heard so much about a local fried chicken place since arriving in Chiang Rai, so I was very eager to find out what exactly was so great about it. After I arrived at the place, I noticed that the place was flooded with food deliveries and the locals. The place was set up in a shophouse with chicken arranged and displayed in the glass container at the front. Even though I only arrived at the scene around 7.30 a.m., which is quite early already, some of the chicken had already been taken.
The local folks seemed to dig the chicken, they are even willing to neglect their breakfast just so they can have some of the fried chicken, I was very worried if I would be able to have some since the place’s stock keeps thinning out due to the excessive demand at the time. Eventually, I did get to try, but at that point, I had already lost my appetite; the satisfaction mostly originated from the sense of achievement.
If you ever come to visit the province and can get yourself some of this chicken, consider yourself very fortunate.
A Place for Some Cup of Mellow Coffee
A small café filled with a cozy vibe that will blast you with the fragrance of coffee the moment you step inside. The place has been serving coffee for Chiang Rai folks for 3 years, yet it is still so restful and tidy. Couple Cup is specialized in pastry, some of their pastry products use seasonal fruits as their main ingredient; for the current season, the place is offering durian and mango cakes.
I love the varieties of coffee served here, it is simple yet fulfilling; most of the coffee served here are variants of coffee blends that you can daily enjoy, each bean was processed by a factory in Bangkok. Currently, there are three variants based on medium roast coffee from three origins, Brazil, Thailand, and Lao. For a coffee enjoyer who loves the sour taste, a blend between the Ethiopian coffee bean and Brazil coffee bean might is recommended, and a blend between washed and natural Ethiopian coffee beans is another alternative.
Since the place respects the guests’ privacy, they have put a sign the place is photographing prohibited zone so people can be sure that a photo of themselves would not get unwillingly exposed anywhere else. Even a publication like me has to follow the rule, I had to wait till every guest had left before I asked the owner for permission to take some photos, what an admirable café. I will certainly recommend this place to any coffee lover who just wants to have some quality rest time with a cup of coffee. Aside from Tuesday when the place is closed, the Couple Cup is open from 8.00 – 17.00 during the workday, and open from 7.30 – 17.00 on Saturday.
Call: 08 1920 3340
Hui Meng (Chiang Rai Noodle)
The Local Noodle King
Of all the noodle places that I have ever tried before, Hui Meng is one of the noodle places, so good that it induces me to dream about having it again. Everything on the menu is good, it is ridiculous. With its traditional-looking set-up, Hui Meng has been in business for a very long time, about 30 years to be precise. They even have their noodle factory behind the place. The place had been offering delicious dishes and providing local dining places with their own freshly made noodles. Regardless of their extraordinary contribution, the place remains a hidden gem for the majority of tourists.
My favorite dishes from the entire menu are noodles, baozi, and shumai. My teammates, on the other hand, love the place’s zongzi so much.
Opening Hour: 7.00- 15.30 and 17.00-23.00
Call: 0 5375 2591
Nai Hang Meatballs Noodle
Streaming Soup, Addicting Meatball
Situated near Chiang Rai Clock Tower, there is a noodle place scatteringly displaying its ingredient stocks at its front. The soup served here is very mellow and fragrant due to the chef using pork backbone as the main ingredient. Each pot of the mellow soup needs 10 kg. of pork backbone. To sum it up, whether it is the fish balls, meatballs, the noodles, and the soup, the chef nails all of them. And if that is not enough to convince you, the place has been in business for 28 years, thriving through that much time is not an easy feat. Oh, and one more thing, there also provide some satay as well, which is a must-try, a combination of tender meat and fragrance coconut milk, the sauce is not too sweet either, what could I say other than this is love.
Call: 0 5371 2536
Opening Hour: 10.00-21.00 น.
Nam Ngiao Pa Suk
Concentrated and Ferocious Nam Ngiao
Although I did say that nam ngiao is not the only renowned dish in Chiang Rai, the dish still contributes a lot to the fame of the province and neglecting the desire to have it will do your stomach no good. In Soi Sankhongnoi 5, there is a legendary nam ngiao place that has been open for ages. It will be a real shame if you visit the province without ever trying the place’s delish nam ngiao even once. Here, there are two options of soup you may choose, one is the beef soup, and another is the pork variant. The place’s pickle is top-notch, and their chili is a fragrance as well; for the chili lover, you may add it per your preference. Aside from the main dish and pickles, they also offer buffalo crackling for a snack as well.
Opening Hour: 8.00-15.00
Call: 0 5375 2471, 08 9794 4584
Nam Ngiao Pa Suai
Light and Soothing Nam Ngiao
If Auntie Suk (Pa Suk) is Sankhongnoi’s Queen of Nam Ngiao, then Pa Suai is definitely the Queen of Nam Ngiao of the Chiang Rai Rajabhat sector. Her nam ngiao is mildly spicy yet filled with concentrated umami flavor; it is almost like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai recipes of nam ngiao have a child together. What I love about this place’s nam ngiao is that they boil pork backbone all together with the broth, tenderizing the meat and then extracting it from the broth. The backbone meat is exclusive for the extra portion, regular size will get only pork blood curd and minced pork.
Aside from that, I also love how their mix pork crackling and buffalo crackling together, so it becomes practically inseparable LOL. Moreover, although the fried garlic is not to my liking, their homemade condiments, side dishes, and topping are great as well, everything is just ravishing.
Opening Hour: 8.00-16.00
Call: 08 3574 1373
Khao Soi Nam Kao
Fantastic Shan Cuisine
Chiang Rai has always been diverse when it comes to culinary. Thankfully, I was able to meet a TV hostess who is a descendant of the Tai Lue people from Xishuangbanna, China, and also a well-versed chef in Shan cuisine, she was the one introducing this place to me. Thip is the third-generation owner, her grandmother is the creator of a legendary recipe that has helped the place to be active for 30 years. You won’t find a single instant-flour product, all the flour used at the place is freshly ground. Their khao ram fuen is also freshly made from chickpea daily. The place is always crowded with guests in parallel to the varieties of food on the menu, thank heaven that I didn’t decide to visit the place in the morning, the place was still quite crowded in the afternoon which restaurants usually have a minimum number of guests. In short, if you ever have a chance to visit Chiang Rai, I suggest you find some time to visit the place.
- Khao soi nam
- Khao soi noi
- Khao ram fuen khao
- Deep-fried khao ram fuen
- Khao lueng gai (Shan biriyani with chicken soup)
- Khao som (tomato rice)
Opening Hour: 10.00-16.00, Closed on Wednesday
Call: 086 910 1418
Pad Thai Clock Tower Chiang Rai
Magnificent À La Carte
Although it is a pad thai place, they also offer countless mouth-watering à la carte. The place once was situated near Chiang Rai Clock Tower, at the time, it was operating as a food truck. A year before the COVID-19 hits the province, the owner decided to expand his business, so he acquired a shophouse with a built-in toilet to open another branch. In the old days, the place only offered a bowl of khao soi which the owner got the recipe from his mother-in-law who has also operated her own khao soi place called Khao Soi Vijittra. However, 80 percent of people commuting around the Chiang Rai Clock Tower during the time were foreigners, who didn’t have any interest in a Chin Haw dish like khao soi yet. Consequently, they didn’t profit much and eventually switch to selling a simpler dish like pad thai which was more well-known not only for Thais but foreigners as well.
For convenience, the owner decided to inherit his mother-in-law’s pad thai recipe as well since it has already been perfected.
Generally, pad thai dishes of this place don’t use any dried shrimp since it is not allergy-proof. Each dish is freshly prepared, imbued with wok hay, and not as sweet as other northern Thai pad thai places.
- Beef nam ngiao, this is the owner’s original recipe, made by simmering beef cheeks for 4 hours with a charcoal brazier, perfectly tender it.
- Khao soi gai (chicken khao soi) making from flat egg noodles enveloped with light soup, a very soothing combination
Opening Hour: 11.00-22.00, every day
Call: 08 1879 2526
The Community of Coffee Lovers
A passion led to the hunt for knowledge, then result in the birth of a coffee business ecosystem. Essentially, Local Coffee is a compacted café that practically serves as a bridge between the plantation to the consumers, the place mainly sells single-origin black coffee from various domestic plantations across the country; including Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai, Nan, Tak, Lampang, and Lamphun. The place has an interesting story behind it which I will discuss separately in the upcoming article.
Opening Hour: 8.30-16.30
Call: 09 4695 9499
The Memories Tea Room
A Blissful Afternoon at Sooknirund
At Sooknirund, here lie a tea and dining room named The Memories, offering guests both fantastic European and Thai cuisines while also providing afternoon tea as well, a perfect recreational place that you might as well bring some books to enjoy.
The Memories provides diverse ranges of breakfast for the entire day, from simple porridge, and northern Thai cuisines, to European dishes. If you love savory dishes, I recommend egg benedict or scrambled eggs. But for people with a sweet tooth, there is a fluffy pancake served with coffee or aromatic waffle for you to enjoy.
If you just want to be cozy and relaxed, how about inviting friends to joy your afternoon tea party so you can chat or peacefully enjoy your favorite read in The Memories Tea Room where there are plenty of savories and sweets?
FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/sooknirundhotel
Pid Thong Lang Pra(Applying Gold Leaf to The Back of a Buddha Figure)
Ethereal Crispy Pork
Situated near Wat Huay Pla Kung, Pid Thong Lang Pra is a hidden dining place worth seeking. The name of the place is a wordplay from a Thai idiom which means an unsung hero, indicating the nature of the chef who tends to focus on prepping food and never gets a chance to receive any praise directly. Meanwhile, the name also refers to the fact that the place is situated behind an actual Buddhism sanctuary.
I was very fortunate to be able to come across this place, chef Yui is an exceptional expert with tremendous culinary experience from various countries including Hungary, Spain, and Sweden. If it wasn’t because her father got sick, Yui might further cumulate more experience in Norway as well; However, she deemed that no amount of experience and financial success is worth the risk of losing a chance to spend a limited time with her family. Hence, she came back and has been utilizing her family’s establishment as a dining place while also preserving the indigenous ponds for her family’s recreational activity. I forgot to bring my lighting with me so the pictures may not do the actual dishes justice, but I can guarantee that they are incredibly tasty.
- Crispy pork: This might sound overpraised, but this place serves one of the best crispy pork I’ve ever had. The skin is so crispy unparallel with the tenderness of the meat, dipping it with makhwaen dip and you may see a glimpse of heaven.
- Chicken feet spicy foot: Splendidly tangy. The chef told me that many people misunderstood that tom-yum and this dish are practically the same, but that isn’t the case because, unlike tom-yum, this dish is an end-product of simmering Chinese five-spice powder, resulting in a light yet the pleasant scent of spice.
- Deep-fried fish: A freshly caught fish from the pond will be cooked masterfully, resulting in a mellow fried fish that is tender on the inside but crispy on the outside, and without any fishy smell as well. Combine that with a yummy dipping sauce, it is a tread that is hard to beat.
- Thai steamed fish with lime: Simply another mouth-watering fish dish.
- Grilled marinated pork neck: One of the chef’s special recipes.
- Stir-fried prawn curry: A plain-looking dish with complex and remarkable taste.
Enough talking and praising. What are you waiting for? go and try some of these recommended.
Open: Tuesday – Sunday, 10.00- 22.00
Call: 095-651-5669 / 064-092-7923
A Place to Chill Out During the Night
The place is affiliated with the Library Chiang Rai; a 4-story nightclub with a library theme. Currently, there are 4 branches of the Library scattered in 4 provinces of the country including Phuket, Hat Yai, Chiang Rai, and Khon Kaen. At each branch, the Sarabun zone is situated on the deck, offering a wide array of foods, commercial beers, and craft beers. Aside from that, in every branch, each floor offers a unique and diverse experience; there is a Dictionary floor, which essentially sells wine and provides an isolated space for a private party, and a hidden bar on the third floor called Writing Room which offers private in-depth cocktail experience, and at the second floor, there is another Library-like zone, but this one is a pub where you can slowly enjoy your meal and the sunset, then go down to have a wild dance at the first floor. As for the first floor, it is a cocktail bar that offers a more affordable drink; starting from 150 THB but with a flashy presentation, juggling the cocktail shaker around and swinging flaming torches.
I decided to enjoy my light meal on the Sarabun floor, the foods here are nice and tangy. The dish I ordered includes
- Hot-pot style simmered beef
- Spicy shrimp with lemongrass salad
- Grilled meat
The atmosphere is great, the craft beer selection is on-point, and the seat is cozy and all, I will visit the place again.
Opening Hour of Sarabun: 17.00 – 24.00
Opening Hour of Library: 19.00-24.00
From a foreign student in Australia who decided to be a chef for a living, she came back home around 7 – 8 years ago and decide to open her restaurant, individually creating her original recipe and becoming the first western grilled rib place in Chiang Rai. At first, the place was mostly filled with foreign guests. But after COVID-19 spread, the place has been eagerly promoting its service to the locals as well, adding more Thai – friendly Western dishes like pizza, steak, and spaghetti; effectively increasing the number of Thai guests in the process. For the record, the owner has planned to establish another branch in Chiang Mai around Thipaned Rd., and it is already in the construction phase.
- Grilled Rib
- Soft shell crab salad
- Salmon pizza
- Spaghetti with grilled prawn and truffle sauce
- Spaghetti with bacon and dried chili
Other than dishes, the place also provides delish soft drinks such as mango smoothies, mixed berry soda, mint soda, etc.
Opening Hour: 11.00- 21.45 น. (The kitchen will be closed at 21.45)
Immerse Yourself in the Scenery of Chiang Rai
Locating at the building next to the hotel and intriguing me to come by, Roof Top Chiang Rai aka. RTCR was one of the destinations I was looking forward to visiting since I had checked in at Sooknirund. The place is a relaxing café covering the third floor and the rooftop above it. Regardless of the floor of your choice, the guests will be able to immerse in a bewitching bird’s eye view of Chiang Rai. Personally, I love the third floor the most due to its tempting vintage industrial interior, the entire floor essentially serves as a lounge and a shelter for when it is raining. The place has been open for 3 years and most customers are of working ages, any minors are welcome to enter but they won’t have access to the place’s alcoholic drink, and they won’t be permitted to stay passing 9.00 p.m.
Opening Hour: 17.00- 23.00
Lung Ead Local
Larb Nong Bua, Larb Place of the 5 Ways Intersection, Larb Lung Ead, Lung Ead Local, this place has been known by many names. When I first visited Chiang Rai, I was confused by the epithets, leading me to believe that these were names of different dining places before I was educated by the locals. For some reason, the place has been an object of adoration for local van drivers; in other words, if you asked the local van drivers where is the best place to have some larb, this is the way they will recommend you. Don’t be discouraged by the lack of guests in the place’s vicinity, because the locals generally order take-aways! Due to an outbreak of poultry diseases, it was such a shame that I couldn’t bring myself to try raw chicken larb the last time I visited the place. However, at the moment, I can recommend the following dishes to you.
A Place to Eat Local Larb
- Chicken larb
- Fish larb
- Tom som
Call: 09 8735 9412
Larbsanamkeera Chiang Rai
This is one of the essential dining places for me. It doesn’t matter what occasion do each time I visit the province, I must visit the place every single time I am in the area. Coincidentally, I have always been the last customer right before the kitchen closing time, and my team and I always order a ridiculous portion of food as well, repeatedly ordering another dish as we’ve just gone through another Great Famine, because there are many items on the menu, and each is pretty good not just the larb dishes. Not to mention that the chef always serves in a big portion yet very affordable as well.
I would recommend you to try kaeng toon, it is plate licking good, and it comes in a massive portion as well; so, what is not to love about that? Another dish I love will be the simmered pork tendon served with galangal dip.
Opening Hour: 10.00 – 20.00