This guide to the best local restaurants in Chiang Rai homes in on the kitchens that champion the region's own cuisine. This city certainly has plenty to make you hungry. From the hubbub of the vintage clothes stores down Walking Street to the dazzling White Temple and the jungled hills of the surrounding Lam Nam Kok National Park, there are oodles here to start working up the appetite.

    Thankfully, Chiang Rai also has plenty on offer when it's time to eat. Longstanding restaurants feature a whirlwind of classic Thai cuisines like spice-scented curries and stir-fried basil leaves, as well as unique Northern Thai dishes you can only find in Chiang Rai.


    Tong Tung Restaurant

    For whole steamed fish on a single platter

    Tong Tung Restaurant promises authentic Northern Thai cuisine and some adventurous dishes for the more daring foodie travelers. You can find it tucked into the maze-like web of streets on the south side of the city, about a 15-minute walk from the Chiang Rai Clock Tower.

    The delicacy here is the whole steamed fish, usually cooked up with sides of stir-fry vegetables and a marinade of fiery chili paste. They also do hot tom yum soups and traditional regional curries packed with spice and mung beans. The setting is casual – expect a Lanna-themed tavern with lanterns dangling from on high.

    Location: 1, Sanambin Rd, Tambon Rop Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 2 pm and from 4.30 pm to 10 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 756 403


    Chiang Rai Roast Duck Shop

    For some of the best roast duck in the city

    The Chiang Rai Roast Duck Shop does exactly what it says on the tin – offer some of the city's top roast duck dishes. Little more than a hole in the wall, it beckons hungry passers-by on Uttarakit Road, just a short walk from the famous statue of King Mangrai, the former Lanna king.

    The Chiang Rai Roast Duck Shop offers plenty of dishes that all have a roast-duck base. There are ones with sweet plum sauces, others with lively chili toppings. You can also enjoy excellent side dishes, which range from garlic and soy morning glory to plain noodles and veg broths. The other draw? Dining at this local restaurant won't break the bank.

    Location: 643/2 Uttarakit, Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 8 am to 4 pm (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)86 086 0647


    Khao Soi Restaurant

    A great place to sample the eponymous noodle dish

    Khao Soi Restaurant is a compact little kitchen that's manned by friendly chefs and comes fronted with a menu of just 5 or 6 daily-changing Thai dishes. You can hardly miss it – the joint lies on the south side of Chiang Rai Night Bazaar.

    Deep-fried tofu cubes, pork broths, crispy noodle salads, and fried fish skins are all part of the offering. However, there's one delicacy that stands out. That's the namesake khao soi (chicken curry noodles) itself. Order that and you'll get a taste-bud-tingling medley of chicken with shallots and soy and ginger that you're not likely to forget in a hurry.

    Location: 4/2 Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm (closed on Sundays)


    Joiwoii Beach

    Riverside views for dinner

    Joiwoii Beach is a breath of fresh air that's tucked just over the sandy banks of the Kok River on the northern side of Chiang Rai. It's away from the hurtling tuk-tuks of the center, roughly a 15-minute drive from the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar.

    The setting is a mix of boho wicker and wood, opened to offer a wide-angle view of the winding waterway and the jungled hills beyond. The menu covers the A-list acts of the north Thai kitchen, including chilli-packed tom yum soups, broiled pork, and whole fried fish with morning glory. There's no beer on offer but you can try fresh watermelon juice that’s served in whole fruit.

    Location: 7/4, Chiang Rai W Bypass Rd, Tambon Doi Hang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)63 416 6928


    Boonsita Vegetarian Restaurant

    Meat-free food aplenty

    Boonsita Vegetarian Restaurant is a must-visit spot in Chiang Rai for hungry travelers on the hunt for traditional food that doesn't have a speck of meat. It's quite central, sitting on Satharn Payabarn Road, a 3-minute tuk-tuk ride or a 12-minute walk from the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar.

    It might not look like it but the whole offering is vegetarian. Alternate mushroom and soy proteins replace the gristle of pork and beef to give a good showing of traditional Northern Thai curries and stir-fries. You can order a la carte or choose the buffet option, which usually includes 6 or 7 separate vegetarian options.

    Location: Satharn Payabarn Rd, Tambon Rop Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Sunday–Friday from 7 am to 4 pm (closed on Saturdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)86 116 4575



    Creative cooking that's drawn from the region

    Barrab offers a fine medley of Thai cooking and an interior that's a touch comfier than most hole-in-the-wall bazaar joints in Chiang Rai. It's tucked into the bustling streets close to the main bus interchange.

    Menus and specials change daily, so there's always something new to sample. Standouts include chicken and eggplant with homemade spice blends and lotus root massaman curry. You can also find staples from just across the border, in the form of Burmese chickpea and tofu salads.

    Location: 897 60 Phaholyothin Rd, Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Wednesday from 11 am to 4.30 pm, Thursday–Tuesday from 11 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)94 812 6670


    Oasis Vegetarian

    A whole buffet without a spot of meat

    Oasis Vegetarian is a fine option in Chiang Rai if you're skipping the pork and chicken stir-fries in favor of something a little less protein-heavy. It's really central, sitting smack dab on the main plaza of the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar, and only a couple of blocks south of the famous Walking Street.

    The place is a buffet-based eatery, where you pay depending on the weight of your chosen food. One word of warning: it could get heavy. There's so much to tempt, from vermicelli noodle soups to beans in tomato and holy basil stir-fries. There are also a la carte options if you don't fancy going out all.

    Location: 4/63, Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 740 525


    Ban Saowaga

    Hot pots surrounded by nature

    The chefs at Ban Saowaga are maestros at churning out Northern Thai hotpot dishes, not to mention a whole load of other regional delicacies. They work their magic in a charming, half-rustic setting on the north side of the city. Getting there takes about 20 minutes in a tuk-tuk from Chiang Rai Walking Street.

    The aforementioned hot pots are the mainstay. They're basically a big, broiling bowl of flavorful meat broth that's packed with crispy cabbage, carrots, onions, wild herbs, and your protein of choice. The menu also has a good showing of seafood, with king prawns and whole fish straight off the BBQ.

    Location: 273 13 2 10 Nang Lae, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10.30 am to 10 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)98 584 7251


    Aye's Restaurant

    Focus on the local Thai offerings

    Aye's Restaurant is a truly traditional Chiang Rai eatery that's tucked right into the maze-like heart of the streets in the city centre. To find it, head due south off Thanon Baanpa Pragarn Road just to the east of the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar. You'll see it opening up in a bloom of tropical plants behind rows of dangling paper lanterns.

    Menus are actually cut about halfway between western and Thai dishes, but it's the local stuff that you'll be writing home about. That selection includes several soups and spring rolls, along with beef stir-fries and thick hang leh (pork belly curry) – a real staple of this northern region.

    Location: 3/5 Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 11.30 am to 11.30 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 752 534


    Pad Thai Clock Tower

    Sample Thailand's national street-food staple

    The Pad Thai Clock Tower is an unassuming and ramshackle eatery that's tucked into the busy sidewalks of central Chiang Rai. As the name implies, it's just a stone's throw from arguably the town's mainstay landmark – the famous Chiang Rai Clock Tower.

    The restaurant’s specialty is none other than the legendary pad thai. It’s not only one of the must-try things up in Northern Thailand, but also one of the most iconic dishes in the country. The basic version comes with shrimps and a topping of peanuts, but it's also possible to do variations with chicken and pork.

    Location: 225 Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 6 pm to 10 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)81 879 2526

    Joseph Francis | Contributing Writer

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