Are you looking for the best cheap eats in Chiang Mai? Look no further; these 9 food spots in Chiang Mai are the absolute best!
In this list of cheap eats in Chiang Mai, I’ve included mostly Thai restaurants; I mean, you’re visiting one of the best food cities in Thailand, after all!
But I’ve also included a few other cuisine types, like Chinese and Japanese, to switch things up!
Recently, I spent just over four weeks in Chiang Mai, visiting and exploring the stunning old city. Being the foodie I am, I was searching for some of the best spots to eat in Chiang Mai. I did visit a few upscale restaurants, but I’m loyal to the cheap eats!
TIP: Always have cash when dining at restaurants in Chiang Mai; some places accept cards, but most only take cash!
Ancient Beef is an excellent restaurant that specializes in serving tender and succulent beef dishes sourced from local farms. You can taste the beef quality at this place, and it stood out to me quite well compared to all the beef dishes I tried in Chiang Mai.
From juicy chunks of beef next to warm rice to mouthwatering beef curries, Ancient Beef offers a wide selection of dishes that cater to meat lovers. By the way, it’s a halal restaurant.
Their skilled chefs use traditional cooking techniques and locally sourced ingredients to create flavorful and authentic Thai beef cuisine. Most dishes range in price from 100 to 250 Baht/$2.8 to $5.71 US.
Also, all dishes come with a complimentary free beef stock soup that’s absolutely delicious. The best part is that there are free refills!
A few chicken dishes and vegetarian options are served here, too, but the restaurant is most well-known for its many excellent beef-oriented dishes!
I visited the restaurant many times over my weeks in Chiang Mai; the flavors were consistent, and the staff was very friendly and attentive. Making it my favorite on this list of cheap eats in Chiang Mai!
Khao Soy Maesai
Serving up Chiang Mai’s signature dish, Khao Soi, not only is this restaurant cheap to dine at, but it’s also become legendary amongst locals/tourists for its delicious Khao Soy.
For those not familiar, Khao Soi is a traditional Northern Thai noodle dish that consists of egg noodles in a rich and fragrant curry broth, topped with tender chunks of meat (usually chicken or beef) and garnished with pickled mustard greens, shallots, and crispy noodles!
The menu is limited, but they offer a few dishes, though it’s mostly all about the Khao Soi here, and you can get the dish with either chicken or beef.
Dishes here range from 40 to 60 Baht/$1 to $2.30 US. A must-have with your Khao Soi is a local-style iced Thai milk coffee!
There is nothing fancy here; Khao Soy Maesai is an authentic local-style restaurant with metal chairs/tables, table numbers, and fast service. The focus is on serving the city’s most famous dish perfectly and nothing else.
The restaurant has been given a few years of Michelin Stars for its consistency of Chiang Mai’s most famous dish.
Get ready to queue in line once you get there, approach and grab a beeper to take your place in line, wait till your beeper beeps, and then follow in to be seated!
By the way, visiting Chiang Mai and not having Khao Soi at least once or twice is a sin!
Most well known for this scrumptious extra crispy fried chicken that’s not oily, by the way, which is why I returned to this place many times!
This no-fuss local-style restaurant is located on a side street, away from the main roads in Chiang Mai. After visiting a few times, it seems a local tight-knit family runs the restaurant; walking in, you can see the whole kitchen layout!
Beyond its chicken, the restaurant is known for its many grilled types of meat, such as fried isaan sausage, which is famous in Nothern Thai cuisine, chicken intestines, fried beef, pork liver, and more!
You must try the chicken when visiting, but feel free to try the other meats as well; what pairs well with everything there is the restaurant’s red and green chili paste, which is not spicy at all, by the way, don’t worry. Both pastes add an extra flavor to meats; order some Thai sticky rice, too.
Expect to pay around 70 to 120 Baht/$2 to $3.50 US per meal here, including meat, rice, and more! Quite cheap, right? It’s definitely one of the best cheap eats in Chiang Mai!
Khao Soi Doi Nang
Are you craving to have some more Khao Soi but aren’t looking to visit one of the many Michelin spots in Khao Soi spots because of the lines? Khao Soi Doi Nang is your solution.
This simple restaurant serves three types of Khao Soi, focusing only on Khao Soi, another reason I loved this place besides its delicious Khao Soi.
They’ve got a chicken, beef, and pork version as well. Pork Khao Soi isn’t traditional, and you can’t find it everywhere in the city, so take a chance if you’d like to try it!
The consistency had me returning to this restaurant many times; the Khao Soi tasted precisely the same after I had visited many times. Expect to pay around 40 to 80 Baht/$1.10 to $2.28 US per Khao Soi, depending on your choice of protein.
You may be thinking to yourself, another Khao Soi restaurant on this list? Well, yes, Chiang Mai is home to this famous dish, and it’s best to try it at various restaurants in the city.
In fact, Khao Soi, the famous soup dish, was named best in the world by TasteAtlas, and it’s quite easy to see why!
Speaking to the owner, who’s half Thai/Chinese, he told me about his restaurant, how they’ve been open for seven years, and that he owns other restaurants in Nothern Thailand. I could tell how much he cared about the food his staff served.
Another one of my favorites is Ruammit 1, a restaurant primarily specializing in Chinese food but only halal Chinese food, by the way. So, if you are looking for pork dumplings, you must look elsewhere!
From fried rice, perfectly cooked black pepper steak, sweet/sour chicken, deep-fried duck, general Taos chicken, and much more. The menu is rather extensive here and is full of many Chinese dishes.
They’ve even got a Thai section on their menu serving all the classics you can think of.
One of the best parts about this restaurant is the serving sizes; they offer each dish in a small/medium/large size. This is perfect for those in a group looking to share food or for those who are looking for big portions!
Expect to pay anywhere from 100 to 220 Baht/$2.8 to $5.7 US for a meal here, depending on the size and what you order. The portions are quite generous here!
Beef Satay under Ton Khoi
First, you should know that this isn’t a restaurant; it’s a small street food stand run by a woman known in Chiang Mai as the “satay queen.”.
Every morning, she sets up a wooden table with around 6/8 seats; she positions herself towards the table and cooks beef satay skewers for seated guests. She’s become famous for her beef satay because of how damn good it is, seriously it’s good!
Also, her hours are very limited; she opens from 8 AM till 11 AM every morning and usually sells out by 10:30 AM, if not earlier. Both locals and tourists all want to try her famous satay!
Not just any beef satay, this beef satay is consistently perfectly cooked under steaming hot charcoal and is paired with a perfect nutty peanut sauce and fresh onions/chilis on the side.
The small skewers cost 7-10 baht, which is very cheap, but you’ll eat many of them. You must keep all the sticks on your table as she counts them at the end to tell you your total. Only cash is accepted.
Having tried satay in many countries, I know what I like. This was the best satay I’ve had in my life. That’s all she serves by the way, just beef satay, nothing more, nothing less.
This was one of the best meals I had in Chiang Mai and arguably the best food experience in Thailand.
Chiang Fish Balls / Chinese Restaurant
Having walked by this restaurant numerous times in Chiang Mai before trying it, I noticed how frequently guests were coming in and out of it, so I had to try it, and I’m glad I did!
Each time I walked by and noticed the perfectly roasted duck hung, it became harder not to try!
For those craving some authentic Cantonese food, this is your spot! From pork dumplings to duck egg noodles, peaking duck on rice, shrimp wontons, BBQ pork, and much more.
Quick service, delicious food in a humble setting, and, most importantly, very affordable prices!
They’ve got dishes here for as low as 40 baht/$1 US, and most meals here have a drink that shouldn’t cost you more than 100 baht/$2.80 US.
This charming restaurant specializes in serving delicious Japanese izakaya-style cuisine, focusing on the popular dishes of zaru soba and donburi. BoonpunZaruAndDon has a cozy dining experience; overall, the restaurant is nicely decorated.
Having eaten so much Thai food in Chiang Mai for many weeks, I craved something else and gave this place a go. Their soba buckwheat noodles were delicious, and the donburi beef rice bowl was also a hit.
I was expecting tasty izakaya-style Japanese food in Chiang Mai, but this place proved me wrong.
There are cheaper places to eat in the city, but I had to include this restaurant because the price was very reasonable for what they served, and dishes here will cost you around 100 to 200 Baht/$2.85 to $5.71.
The only downside is the food took an above-average waiting time each time I went, but considering the flavors, they had me coming back.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
At the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, you will find many food options to satisfy your cravings here. From delicious local Thai dishes to Western cuisines like burgers/chicken wings and other international cuisines like Mexican and Korean.
And if you have a sweet tooth, be prepared to be spoiled because of the abundance of dessert options available!
Open every night of the week from 5:00 PM till around 11:00 PM. In addition to the many foods, you’ll find plenty of goods to shop for here at the bazaar.
Except Sunday nights, because on Sunday, the vendors are at the famous Chiang Mai Walking Street Sunday market.
Expect to pay around 40 to 120 Baht/$1 to $6 US per dish at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. There’s a wide variety of foods, so prices depend on your cravings; seafood and Western food will always be more costly than local Thai dishes.
The best part about the night market in Chiang Mai is the affordable drinks you can pair with your meal: ice-cold beer, freshly squeezed juice, refreshing water, or soda served with plenty of ice, so take your pick!
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Cheap Hotels in Chiang Mai
Hidden Garden Hostel – Top-ranked hostel offering exceptional clean and beautiful decor, with a pool, working space and located right by a night market
Revolution Hostel – Known for its vibrant communal space, offering both private and dorm-style rooms. Located a minute’s walk from many night markets and Old City Chiang Mai
Mid Range Hotels in Chiang Mai
Pingviman Hotel – A stunning relaxing boutique hotel near Nong Buak Park in the Old City, it’s also near the Old City River and many restaurants/shops
Phor Liang Meun – Well-decorated hotel with a modern and old-school look, located on the edge of the Old City in an excellent location
Luxury Hotels in Chiang Mai
Shangri-La Chiang Mai – Swanky hotel with excellent amenities in a fantastic area; a few minutes walk away from many restaurants and the city’s vibrant night markets
InterContential – A contemporary, luxurious modern hotel located in the Old City of Chiang Mai, with nearby shops, restaurants, and massage parlors
Best Cheap Eats in Chiang Mai — Final Thoughts
There you have it; those are the absolute best cheap eats in Chiang Mai! After spending a few weeks, trust me, I ate all over the city, trying many restaurants in many different areas!
Chiang Mai is an excellent food city that represents Nothern Thai cuisine best. Beyond Thai food, Chiang Mai has various cuisines that satisfy anyone’s preferences.
And there are many more cheap eats to discover; after all, Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s cheapest places to visit!
An excellent way to experience the local cuisine in Chiang Mai is by attending one of the many great foodie tours in the city!
If you’ve recently visited Chiang Mai and discovered a few excellent cheap eats in Chiang Mai, please feel free to comment your suggestions below for others to visit as well!
Where to after Chiang Mai? I highly recommend visiting other places in northern Thailand, such as Pai, Chiang Rai, and others!
When traveling, I highly recommend getting a Wise Card. This international Visa debit card allows you to exchange currency easily on the app and use the local currency that accepts Visa wherever you go. Also, you can use the card to take out local currency from an ATM!
ATM TIP: The ATM fees in Thailand aren’t cheap, ranging around 200-300 Baht/$6-8.50 US per cash withdrawal. So make sure to withdraw what you need to save on ATM transactions. The maximum withdrawal is 20,000 Baht per transaction.
What is the most popular food in Chiang Mai?
The most popular dish in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi; other popular dishes are Isaan pork sausage and lard!
What is the signature dish of Chiang Mai?
Khao Soi is the signature dish of Chiang Mai. The curry-based egg noodle dish is an excellent mix of complex flavors, and its side servings of chili, lime, and onions make for a unique combination.
Where do locals eat in Chiang Mai?
Night markets and local humble eateries where you’ll spot metal tables and stools. Most of these restaurants can be found on side streets, but some are also on the city’s main streets!
How much are drinks in Chiang Mai?
Drinks in Chiang Mai are around 60 to 100 Baht/$1.70 to $2.85 US, depending on what you’ve ordered!
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