Travelling to Thailand repeatedly for the past years and visiting Chiang Mai city every time we are here made us want to share this beautiful destination with you.
A few months ago we created an extensive guide called 25 Cool Things To Do In Chiang Mai where we covered the topic of what to do there while you are travelling as a backpacker, family or as a digital nomad. But we hadn’t realized that Chiang Mai is not just all about activities and adventures, Chiang Mai is food and coffee heaven and all the gastronome lovers of the world should definitely visit it.
Having said that we would like to share with you our choice of top 5 cafe-restaurants where someone could have really good food, amazing drinks and a cosy atmosphere. These places are chosen carefully for those who like to wake up and enjoy their early morning coffee outside, for ones who like to work on their laptop while enjoying a smoothie or a delicious local desert during the day or for those who are just hungry and looking for a place that offers a combination of rich breakfast, tasty lunch or well-rated dinner.
Airniversary Camp & Cafe
No it’s not a spelling mistake, It’s correctly called Airniversary.
Inspired by the name of the lady-boss nicknamed Air, Airniversary Camp & Cafe as it’s shown on the signs is one of the most beautiful restaurants in the old city of Chiang Mai, located a short distance walk from Chiang Mai Gate Market. I spotted it truly by luck while walking around the neighbourhood. It has a unique decoration related to camping and bicycles. That’s why at the main entrance one can see an old red bike hanging. But even when getting inside various vintage bicycles can be witnessed all around the restaurant.
It is nice being in the heart of the old city while chilling on the large pillows on the deck surrounded by flowers and trees, exactly like you are camping in nature. The atmosphere was so great that after having my evening Americano coffee accompanied by one of the delicious desserts, Air Cheesecake is their signature, i decided to stay for dinner.
The hundreds tiny lamps lightened-up and the tables around me quickly filled with foreigners and locals who gathered either for Airniversary’s extraordinary mocktails or for the evening menu.
I had a glance on the list and was amazed by the various interesting choices. Some of the most eye-catchy were: Mango Pancake, Spicy Chicken Pizza with Egg and Basil Leaves, Traditional North Thai Appetizers accompanied with Green Chilli dip, Matcha Green Tea Bingsu, Roasted Coconut Cake and many kinds of refreshing smoothies and local teas.
Feeling confused i asked the staff to help me make up my mind. The friendly suggested me their speciality. Tom Yam Khun Spaghetti. A Thai version of prawns and pasta mixed in a tomato-chilli sauce cooked with local herbs. Oh boy, I have never tried so delicious combination, although shrimps and spaghetti is a common dish in Mediterranean destinations, this one tasted quite different. My congrats to the chef for his skills to play with Thai & Italian cuisine so successfully.
The Airniversary is open daily except for Wednesdays when it’s the day the staff goes biking with the owner.
Fern Forest Cafe
Only a 5-minute walk from the well-known temple Wat Pra Singh and you will find yourself at the entrance of the Fern Forest Cafe. Popular amongst locals and ex-pats Fern Forest is one more outstanding selection to satisfy your craving for the unique Thai kitchen. It’s literally a small forest hidden in the city bringing the necessary sense of freshness during the hot humid days.
Some of the things that make this a must-visit spot in Chiang Mai is Fern’s garden. The little fishpond, the tropical feeling transmitted from the lush vegetation and the sneaky little birds trying to get a bite of your food is something you can’t experience elsewhere or at least without leaving to the countryside. I absolutely love the tranquillity this place offers and I could stay here for hours just reading a book and sipping my coffee slowly.
But it’s not only the garden that I enjoy the most when I come here. The cafe itself is a whitewashed wooden Thai house that was transformed into this unique cafe a few years ago. This is the property of the family that runs the Fern Forest cafe and it is really interesting how they could manage to preserve the aesthetics and the architecture during the renovation. Getting inside, every time, I can capture myself admiring the jaw-dropped deserts and stairing at the beautiful pottery collection at the backside.
As for the food, I have tried Fern’s fried roti with spinach, mushrooms and cheese. It’s a great option for a brunch but if you are hungry I recommend also ordering the Kao Pad Sap Pa Rod, a pineapple stuffed with vegetables, chicken and fried rice, decorated with pork ‘hair’ (sweet Chinese pork sausage) on the top.
Of course, I couldn’t just leave without trying their popular Coconut Cream Pie. I can still recall the smoothness, the fragrance, the light texture of it. It was absolutely refreshing, not too sweet, the perfect balance! I admit, have never eaten something like this before and now I know why so many people coming here only to taste this Coconut Pie. Discussing with the owner he happily surprised me saying that the secret is that it’s always served fresh, this means nothing is from the previous day, and the most important it’s a family recipe that revived. Thumbs up for that 👍
Fern Forest is open daily from 8:30 in the morning till 9:30 in the evening and visiting it during the weekends is recommended to enjoy the live jazz and piano sessions. Tip: Don’t forget to try also Tom Ka Kai coconut soup and their soft pancakes with exotic fruits.
One of my resent discoveries in the Chiang Mai area is this beautiful place called Lamour Cafe. Located somewhere at the foothills of Suthep mountain in a big private garden this is truly a hidden gem of the city.
First time entering the yard i was amazed by the surroundings and the calm atmosphere. The building itself is a two-story house that is decorated with strong yellow tones that are harmonically mixed with the green colour of the fauna, making this cafe to look like it’s just pop-up from a fairy tale.
The young girls and boys working here have a professional attitude and their approach to make every visitor feel welcomed is something i immediately noticed. What i loved the most though is that everyone’s haircut is tastefully managed in the house, as this is not only a cafe or restaurant but also a chic hair salon. It’s a unique concept that started by good friends from Bangkok. After successfully running a number of hair salons in the capital one of them decided to quit and move north to the more chill-out city of Chiang Mai and introduce his brilliant idea to the locals.
Lamour Cafe is not counting on tourists but is addressed mostly to the locals who visiting it very often for the exceptional food, aromatic coffee and of course for Lamour-Style hairdressing services.
Last but not least I can admit that the Thai – French decoration style and the entire concept surprised me a lot and this place should be visited by everyone who travels to Chiang Mai as it’s one of its kind!
My recommendations for Lamour Cafe are not enough to write them down here, but you should definitely taste Mango Lava Cake, Lamour Souffle Pancake with Fruits, Som-Tum with Burned Salmon and the Sea-Food Spicy Salad with Green Mango.
My Secret Cafe in Town
Like the name suggests this cute cafe on our list is a secret gem in the old town of Chiang Mai. You will find it just a block away from the Wat Pra Singh temple nestled in a small alley. The cosy ‘My Secret Cafe in Town‘ is the perfect spot to enjoy your morning cup of coffee or your breakfast. The menu includes waffles, fresh salads, delicious home-baked goods, vegetarian options and much more.
I personally prefer to visit The Secret Cafe cause it’s nice to work on my laptop while having my lunch or my favourite green latte ice-tea.
This place is run by a young friendly couple and is open daily from 8:00 am. Tip: Don’t miss the Tuesday evenings when the live music sessions take place.
The Barn Eatery & Design
If you are looking a place to study or work on your laptop then the Barn Eatery & Design Cafe is the ideal one.
Located a few meters away from Wat Suan Dok temple, which is a beautiful and old temple, Barn is a nicely decorated place with a rustic feel, white transparent curtains and walls that were converted to windows to offer the best lightening conditions for the students who come here to study, drink and eat.
What’s on the menu?
Almost everything! Light western snacks, options with chicken or pork, deep-fried fish with curry and let’s not forget the Yami variety of cakes.
The Barn Eatery is open from 10:00 am daily till the midnight so it’s also possible to enjoy a drink and listen to some good music late in the night.