Back by popular demand, we feature Chiang Mai’s best independent eateries and cafes, encouraging SLG travllers to support local business across the world.
Against the bubbling backdrop of the fishpond at Blue Diamond, it’s hard not to tune into the multi-lingual conversations unfolding in every corner of the lush garden veranda. Diners that agonize over the ins and outs of Buddhist thought or recount recent tales of drunken debauchery inevitably pause to applaud the kitchen, “Good breakfast here. The bread is good.”
And not just the bread is good. The only anxiety-provoking detail of the super sabai (relaxed) Blue Diamond dining experience might be its overwhelming number of choices, but at least you know what you’re getting before you get it; the menu boasts photos of each Thai and Western dish, labeled clearly in English. It’s a welcome relief from the art of pointing and ordering, or downing whatever mystery meat lands on the table after you really, seriously thought you ordered the mixed veggies. At Blue Diamond, the food is not only guaranteed, but it’s beautiful: big, crunchy salads in all shades of veggie-and-nut-packed nutrition, heaping bowls of rainbow fruit doused in homemade yogurt and multi-seeded muesli, and an impressive variety of vegetarian sandwiches on served on pillowy homemade rolls. What’s best? Blue Diamond is the only joint we’ve found that has avocado year-round!
We love the banana coffee shake for a thick and decadent burst of energy. Forgo the myriad Western breakfast options for some vegetarian kao soi. And once you’ve had your veggies with the stellar Vietnamese spicy salad, skip the vegan ice cream and gluten-free muffins for the comfiest of comfort food: a slice of Blue Diamond’s warm apple pie. It’s as perfect a pie from crust to filling as we have stumbled upon in any corner of the world
Blue Diamond is located on Moon Muang Soi 9. Open 7:30 to 20:30. Closed Sundays. Also, check out Grace House, a little further up the soi, which is owned and operated by Blue Diamond and has basically the same menu and goodies, just no garden.
Nestled away from the hi-so hustle of Nimmenhamen and the tourist tizzy of the Old City, Satva Café in Santhitam is a our favorite pocket of Zen in Chiang Mai. Students at the nearby ITM massage school curl up on cozy cushions with mugs of fresh coffee to study diagrams of the human body, while locals pop in to discuss the meaning of life over elegant glasses of fresh fruit juices and ginger teas. Satva feels like the tree house from your childhood, flooded with light, color, and inspiration. If you show up early enough, you might just catch a deliciously unconventional yoga class in the world-class studio upstairs with Satva’s friendly owner, Freddie, where you’ll really feel like you’re hanging from the trees.
The menu at Satva is limited, with a few delicious Western breakfast options, a veggie curry, and hummus and pita; but it boasts one of our favorite dishes in all of Chiang Mai: the sesame-dusted, deep-purple fried rice, woven with crunchy vegetables and creamy tofu. Order it crowned with a runny fried egg for the kind of healthy treat that makes you love yourself just a little more than you did before. Real, pure and simple food for the body and soul, it’s a perfect post-yoga meal with a carrot, ginger, beetroot juice or a banana soymilk smoothie.
Satva opens when Freddie and his wonderful staff show up in the morning, usually around 7:30 or 8am. The last time we checked, Freddie was teaching yoga from 8-9:30am everyday, but it’s always best to check in the day before. Freddie also offers yoga and massage courses depending on the season.
One of the most vibrant establishments in the Old City, Dada Kafé shines green in a big way. The staff grows wheatgrass on the roof of the airy street-front restaurant, make their own organic kombucha tea, and cook up some of the best vegetarian food around. The clientele at this backpacker’s paradise might just be as colorful and fun to savor as the food, so you’ll feel at home no matter your flavor. We’ve spent hours sipping healthy smoothies and lassies meant to refresh and detox, and soaking up the vibe near bustling Thae pae Gate.
The veggie sandwich is dressed to impress with shredded beets, carrots, and pea shoots. Add some tuna for protein, and go to town with the squeeze bottle sauces on the table. It’s worth a trip to Dada for our favorite smoothie alone, which makes magic out of peanut butter, cinnamon and coconut milk. And against some fierce competition, Dada has one of the best bowls of fruit, yogurt, muesli, and honey that we’ve tasted in Chiang Mai.
Dada is 20/1 located near Gecko Books on Ratchmankla road. 8pm-10pm
Crunchy, cool, and creative, a craft-your-own salad at Salad Concept is our favorite way to veg-out in Chiang Mai (minus the fish sauce). Salad Concept on Nimman is almost always buzzing with Thais and farang (foreigners), but there’s usually a table available on the cozy patio out back. Service is snappy; with the huge selection of veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, and proteins, it will take you longer to decide on what to pile on your salad than it will for the mammoth bowl of greens to arrive.
It’s a great deal- choose 5 toppings and one dressing for 50 baht, with proteins and other rarities like meat, tofu, egg, and cheese 10 to 20 baht extra extra. Homemade dressings like tamarind and sesame, carrot, tofu, and mint come in cute little dishes on the side. Our favorite is the pumpkin dressing, which is more of a thick, nutty, and slightly sweet bisque than a conventional salad sauce. Once you select your toppings (standouts include crispy bell peppers, pumpkin, sesame coated tofu, red bean, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, shredded carrot, and feta cheese), your last decision will be whether to dip, to dunk, or to pour that dressing on!
Sadly, many of the desserts at Salad Concept look better than they taste, but if you want to sugarcoat your veggie feast, try the carrot cake or chocolate pudding trifle.
Salad Concept is located at Nimmanhaemen Soi 13. Open from 11am to 10pm.