The first thing I do on moving to any new city or destination is to scope out the local area for all my favourite foods. And it is no different this time with our recent move to the Nimman area of Chiang Mai. So over the space of a month we ate out at least once a day, and were out boozing every other day, as we put together our usual food list of what we turn to almost everywhere in the world. The staples of my being, which bring the best of various continents and worlds, although much does focus on Thai, Asian and fast food staples. There are also some restaurants worth mentioning, like Salad Concept, which is just weirdly popular, and there are ridiculous numbers of cafes found in the Nimman area, which I will include in separate Top 10 Posts. Also pretty much everything on this list comes to less than 200 Baht, as we mostly live on snack foods, rather than wining and dining (plus Chiang Mai is ridiculously cheap when it comes to eating). Anyway, here are some of the best restaurants in Nimman Chiang Mai.
Best Northern Noodles: Khao Soi Mae Sai
Address: Ratchaphuek Alley (the opposite side of Huaykaew Road)
I hadn’t planned on including the local noodles, at all, as there really are too many to choose from. And I find much of my fun in Chiang Mai comes from the search for the perfect Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiaw and Khao Soi noodles. As there’s really no harm in going wrong, given they rarely cost more than 35 Baht at local and street food level. But for one of the more sought after, established, and comfortable shophouses, I would probably go with Khao Soi Mae Sai, which is technically outside of the Nimman Area (on the opposite side of Huaykaew Road) but still it’s just a short walk away. Or just keep it close and safe with Khao Soi Nimman (Nimmanhemin Soi 7).
Best Lanna Food: Tong Tem Toh
Address: 11 Nimmanhemin Road, Soi 13
Unlike the hugely popular noodle soups of Lanna cuisine, the lesser found bites are often better found at local markets where they are each sold separately (a fantastic market here). As there really isn’t a whole load of Lanna Specific Restaurants around Nimman as you may have expected. However, one of the better, is most definitely Tong Tem Toh which sells circular sets similar to the that of traditional khantoke tables, including the more prominent bites of sai oua sausage (aka Chiang Mai sausage), local chilli dips, in nam prik noom, a toasted green chilli dip, and nam prik ong, a minced pork and tomato based dip. And these are typically served alongside various boiled veg and Kap Moo crispy pork scratchings for dipping. To round off the table I would also include some Kaeng Hang Ley (a rich pork curry), Naem (a fantastic fermented pork) and maybe Moo Yor (steamed pork). And eating doesn’t get much better.
Best Isaan Food: So Lao
Address: 43 Siri Mungkalacharn (opposite Nimman soi 7)
When it actually comes to salads in Thailand (unlike at Salad Concept), they really can be awesome, such as laab salads, yum salads and of course som tam papaya salads, and these dishes would typically top our priority list when it comes to relocating. In fact Namtok Moo (grilled pork neck salad) and Som Tam Pla Ra (Papaya Salad with pickled fish sauce) would be our all time favourite foods, respectively. As Isaan food is just unbeatable. So, So Lao, which is named after Lao food, would be more specific to Isaan as there’s not really the Vietnamese or French colonial influences in the menu here. And as far as Isaan food here it is hard to beat (and we know our Isaan food). And there credentials have taken them further with other franchises popping up elsewhere in the city. In short, really good Isaan food.
Best Coffee Shop: Ristr8to Lab
Address: 14 Nimmanhaemin rd soi 3 (original on main road between Nimman 3 and 5)
Coffee shops really aren’t my forte (I like my coffee strong and near a toilet) but in Chiang Mai I found myself in them often twice daily, as I followed Fanfan on her Chiang Mai cafe tour. And there will be specific posts to come, sharing 10 of the best coffee shops in Nimman, as well as 10 through further Chiang Mai. But, to share just one in Nimman, it would have to be Ristr8to Lab the “Specialty Coffee Crafters”. They are famous here for their fancy brewing bars, although I personally wouldn’t know the difference between a Woodneck and V60 Pour Over. I barely know the meaning of filtration. So the whole Barista thing is lost on me, but one thing I do understand is their Good Spirit Menu, with Black Martinis, Dirty White Russians, and Shaken Irish Coffees. Because alcohol will infinitely make coffee better (100% fact). Otherwise their Machiattas are good and strong, but I’d probably need around 5 cups to get me going. Note there are now two shops in and around Nimman Soi 3 and we typically go for Ristr8to Lab, because it should be less busy, but it’s not.
Best Dessert Cafe: iBerry Gardens
Address: Nimmanhaemin Road Soi 17 (Sai Nam Phueng Alley)
Personally I don’t really do sweet, and given a choice between sweets, or anything else on this list, I will always go for everything else (bar the coffee maybe). So I am more here for the decor and whimsy of iBerry Garden I feel optimizes the Nimman area with its fun and quirky appeal, as well its crowds of cute Asians taking selfies next to things. And while the Nimman area does seem somewhat suburban and local, in reality it is a huge tourist area popular with Asian crowds, such as Koreans and Chinese. And this is partly why there is such great Asian food in the area, including the Korean icecream Bingsu which really is quite fantastic (and huge) at iBerry Gardens.
Best Burger: Beast Burger
Address: 14 Nimmanhemin soi 17
Beast Burger started out as a local food truck in Nimman, and it would probably be Chiang Mai’s equivalent to Bangkok’s Daniel Thaiger, as its popularity pushed them into a major upgrade and full-time establishment. And every is done right from its clean-cut premises, to its simplistic, yet solid, menu. And they of course have fantastic burgers, in their signature Beast Burger, their Blue Cheese Burger and their Pulled Pork Sandwich. All served with paprika flavoured fries, or alternatives of waffle fries and cheesy fries. Simple but ridiculously delicious.
Best Japanese Curry: Mu’s Katsu
Address: Nimmana Haeminda Rd, Soi 8 (Opposite Soi 13)
Ignoring the obvious in Coco Ichibanya at Maya, and Papa Curry, which moved from its Nimman location to a 5 minute walk out. My favourite option for Japanese Curry is definitely Mu’s Katsu, a small, long-standing Japanese restaurant specialising in Katsu pork cutlets. Although curry does feature highly on their menu and, while it’s richer to what I am used to, it goes well with all the unlikely favourites of omelette and cutlets covered with cheese. Although I would still suggest a visit out to Papa Curry which is within an easy walking distance of Nimman Road (near Wat Suan Dok).
Best Ramen: Ninja Ramen
Address: 19 Sirimangkalajarn Rd (Near Huaykaew Road)
This one is contentious, and while better maybe found through the various, more polished, Japanese restaurants (Godzaa maybe) there is just less fuss at Ninja Ramen. They also huge bowls, the Tonkotsa broth is better than it looks, and prices are easily affordable. There is also a wide deconstructed list to choose from when it comes to broths, like a spicy Miso, although I do find it hard to see past the fantasticness of Tonkotsa pork bone. It’s like an addiction with me. And, while this place does sound to be Ramen Specific, there is a wider menu of all sorts, including other favourite Japanese junk foods such as Omininomiyaki. Again at really good prices.
Best Rooftop Bar: Myst at Maya
Address: 55 Huay Kaew Rd (It’s hard to miss)
This may seem obvious, but there are various bars and snack spots found on the rooftop of Maya Mall, which is that massive modern mall found at the beginning of the main Nimman Road. But the best views, overlooking Nimman in one direction, and Doi Suthep in the opposite, are almost certainly on the top levels of Myst, at the furthest end of the outside Al Fresco dining platforms. And the prices really aren’t too extortionate, at least when compared to similar experiences in Bangkok, where you can still feed your face without breaking the bank (although God knows why we bought a huge tank of Sangria). The bar is also connected to a Japanese sushi bar with fantastic mango layered maki rolls. It’s also a great option for romance.
Best Beer Bar: Beer Lab
Address: Nimmanhaemin Road (Near Nimman Soi 12)
There really is no competing with Beer Lab with its massive list of 200 plus beers and ciders, including a bunch on tap, like BrewDog Punk IPA, and Hoegaarden Rose for the wife (the only beer Fanfan would ever touch). Although there is quite a fascinating cocktail list, for the beerphobic, including taster sets where you’re more or less given syringes of flavours to mix yourself. Which can be fun. It is also just a couple of doors up from Warm Up Cafe which would also be the area’s biggest and iconic nightlife venue (although alternative night life spots are better found at . But it’s also possibly the most expensive beer bar in Chiang Mai, given it’s pretty much all pricey imported beers. And while it is by far the best beer bar in Nimman it wouldn’t be my favourite, simply because I prefer the quiter backstreets at Beer Republic (Nimman Soi 11), although the beer list is similarly priced, and is nowhere near the same size.
Best Booze Food: Funky Grill Mala Kebabs
Address: 199/4 Huaykaew Rd (Near opposite Maya)
Mala is more or less the combination of the chilli flakes and sichuan peppercorns found in many Sichuan dishes, like noodles and hot-pot, and for those familiar to Chinese Street Food the kebabs here are very similar to Chuan’r. Where, before barbecuing over flaming charcoals, the kebabs are dusted with a mix of salt, chilli flakes, a cumin spice mix, but, most importantly, sichuan peppercorns which give that delightful face numbing food sensation. There are varying meats and options for barbecue and most cost 10 Baht per stick. Also, this is only a night-time gig, opening around 18:00PM, because the premises in fact doubles as a motorbike service shop in daytimes. And it stays open until 02:00AM.
Best Health Food: The Salad Concept
Address: Nimmarnhemin Road Soi 13 (on the corner of Nimman Road)
Say you’re invited on a date, to Salad Concept, and you’re tempted to delete all contact, and burn your phone. Don’t. Because, looking past the name, there is more to this restaurant than salads only. And, having removed every leaf of salad, from the menu, you are left with a not-so-bad selection of pastas, pizzas, and sandwiches. A Ham and Cheese Panini, for example. But on my visit, I took one for the team, by ordering a salad, which I then upgraded to a wrap, which follows the same build your own concept. But I even skipped on the more eatable additions, like crispy bacon bits, and cheddar cheese, and ultimately ended up with a dam good wrap (although this was due mostly to the awesome dips and dressings). In short, it’s not as depressing as it sounds.
Best Roast Chicken: Cherng Doi Roast Chicken
Address: Top of Soi Sukasem (Between Nimman 2 & 4)
Cherng doi is essentially Isaan food, again, but you can never get too much Isaan food. Fact. And as the name suggests they also specialize in grilled chicken (kai yang), which will never quite compare to grilled pork neck (Kor Moo Yang), also fact, as it would otherwise be in contention with So Lao as above. Although the Som Tams don’t quite come up to scratch, which really comes down to personal tastes, so it’s a tough choice. Anyway, again it is Isaan food, and much of the menu is fantastic, like their chicken, obviously. But I’d personally go with their grilled chicken salad (Yum Kai Yang) as well, which is sincerely top notch, and their Tom Saap pork bone soup which beats any Tom Yum hands down (including Tom Yum Nam khon). By fortune our condo was on the same street (Soi Sukasem) so we could sneak in before it’s overrun by tourists, as it is a big favourite with the local backpacker bloggers.