Please keep in mind "back in the day" when I came here as a tourist I was hard pressed to find a tuna sandwich to munch on, never mind a pizza, a salad or a burger when my craving for farang food became almost unbearable. As a matter of fact, it's still a stretch to find the sandwich item here made without salad cream, a fried egg or some other thing I don't want in or on my tuna. But then again, if I want something as mundane as a tuna sandwich I'll make it at home and not go to a restaurant. Also note that I don't like rice. I never have liked rice. There are many local "Mom and Pop" Thai restaurants here in Chiang Mai where even after more than eight years of requesting things like Chicken and Cashews, Spicy Thai Beef Salad and several other of my favorite Thai foods with no rice I still get some strange looks and a whole lot of head shaking. Don't get me wrong, I love Thai food. But when you live here, are farang and either can't find what you need or the price of the ingredients to make your favorite farang foods are sky high, what do you do? In my case I became like Diogenes and roamed the streets of Chiang Mai in search of some of my favorite farang cravings, and this is what I found.
I have listed My Four Favorite Farang Food Facilities in alphabetical order, not preference, since I think they all are fantastic and also enjoy and miss different favorite foods at different times.
BILLY RESTAURANT: (Italian) This is Billy Restaurant, not Billy's and it's a small local Italian restaurant & pizzeria. Those of you armed with your N/C map will have no problem finding it and if you don't have one of those don't worry, it's up the street toward the Old City from the Centara. (First right after you cross the bridge over the feted canal.) After you turn right, walk straight down the Soi and you will see several tables with checked table cloths outside the restaurant on the left. You can eat inside with A/C or outside and people watch.
The food is great and a reasonable price. Highly recommend in my book is the salmon pizza, spaghetti carbonara, or the osso bucco. Salads are fresh and crisp with not a speck of the dreaded shredded carrot found heaped on so many salad plates here in the Kingdom. Bruschetta is to die for since Billy doesn't skimp on the mozzarella. Billy also provides some crusty Italian bread, garlic butter and dipping oil to each table. When you finish your entree why not try some of the tiramisu? The wine list is limited, but the by-the-glass house white or red is quite good and not overpriced. There are also many vegetarian items on the menu, one of which is the vegetable lasagna.
The decor is simple but the food is excellent. The owner and staff are Thai, friendly and welcoming, Billy Restaurant is all about good times relaxing with good Italian food. It is open from Noon till till about 11:00 at night. So if you find yourself in the Night Bazaar area it is worth the short walk over to Kampaengdin road.
Billy restaurant 42 Kampaengdin Rd.
THE DUKE'S: (American) Billed by "The Duke" himself, as the premier destination in Chang Mai for great American food. No claims, no games, just great food - the owner/operator of this Chiang Mai intuition is not overstating! Well known for their "falling off the bone ribs", the assortment of menu choices is fantastic for farang and Thai alike who crave some good American food.
Some of my favorites from this restaurant are the New England shrimp chowder, turkey and Swiss melt sandwich, steak salad, combo pizza and the chicken fried chicken. Portions are LARGE and all ingredients are fresh - case in point - the Chef's Chopped Salad, which is loaded with romaine, fresh tomato, ham, chicken, pepperoni and black olives. Try it with some of The Duke's homemade Italian dressing (one of the best ever, and no, he won't give out the recipe, I've asked!). There is also a great "kids" menu and all of the prices are reasonable. The desserts are also "to die for"! The Duke's offers wine by the glass or carafe, mixed drinks and an assortment of beer, both Thai and imported.
Tel: River Ping Branch: 053-249 231
Night Bazaar Branch: 053- 818 603
Open: daily 11.00 - 23.00
THE RIVER MARKET; (Thai and farang) I have already written a review of this fantastic place (you can find it in the FAQ column - Dining Experiences) and perhaps you are wondering why I have it listed again here with farang food. Well, the simple reason is anyone who lives or visits here - or any food that is not Thai is called farang. The River Market has some wonderful farang food ideas that get my mouth watering and my stomach growling just thinking about them. For instance, there is the Seafood and raw bar, Sashimi and Nigiri, California rolls, Shrimp tempura rolls and King crab legs as well as Chicken salad which I understand has roasted chicken, mixed greens and peanut sauce. There are more choices that would be considered farang food such as the Massaman lamb sirloin curry which I wrote about in my review. No matter what you order everything is made with the freshest of ingredients and it's delicious. I've also requested no rice with my meal and not received a strange look or a head shake here!
One of the Thai foods I must try next visit are Thai Sausage stuffed chicken wings. (how in the world you stuff a chicken wing is beyond me - but I intend to find out). I'm not going to list some of the Thai selections, however I do want to say a few words about the dining style you will find at The River Market. This restaurant is about having fun and relaxing with family and friends. It's a place for people to share their menu choices and to take their time enjoying a meal the way the Thai people do. As I said, portions are large, so no need to worry about not having enough to eat if you share. When you go out for dinner in the West you may spend a bit more than an hour eating at the restaurant. Thai people may take two or three hours talking, eating, sampling each dish and this is the way to enjoy your meal at The River Market. You may also find that everything you ordered doesn't arrive at the table all at the same time the way food does in a Western restaurant. Don't stress or get upset - this is a part of the Thai dining experience also - slowly, slowly - sabai sabai. Relax, enjoy, watch the River Ping flow by your table from the terrace. The River Market has a nice wine menu and also offers mixed drinks and an assortment of different beer.
It's a wonderful dining experience. I do recommend you make reservations if you will be dining with a large group, it makes everything just a bit easier for the staff and you won't have to wait for a large table to be set up.
Right next to the Iron Bridge/Night Bazaar side of the Ping
Charoen Prathet Road, Tambol Changklan, Amphur Maung, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Telephone - 053-249-943
THE SPIRIT HOUSE RESTAURANT (Continental/Asian) This is another of my favorite restaurants which I have already reviewed. I've gone back here time and time again over the years. It's small, intimate and interesting. I can't get enough of Steve's homemade pate and sometimes purchase a portion to bring home with me. I love eating dinner in the garden area - which feels like a jungle and in the background you can enjoy the sound of the waterfalls along the back wall. I always eagerly await hearing what creative, innovative things are on the Specials Menu for the evening. Chicken tarragon, fresh fish in a blueberry sauce, crispy pork with a mustard sauce? The man is a genius in the kitchen and if the place isn't too crowded Steve becomes a most interesting raconteur when he stops by the table. The Spirit House has a limited wine menu and does serve mixed drinks and beer.
Make sure you save room for one of Steve's delectable desserts too. Most include chocolate - either white or dark - some served with raspberries, or apricots and sponge cake soaked liqueur with perhaps some homemade whipped cream on top? How bad can it be?
The Spirit House is off of Chang Puek Road on Viangbua Road. It is diagonally across the street from Viangbua Mansion - and there isn't a tuk tuk driver or songtaw driver in the city who doesn't know where that venue is. I also suggest at this venue if you have a party of six or more you call ahead for reservations.
Spirit House 4 Viangbua Rd.
Chiang Puek, Chiangmai 50300
Telephone: 66 (0)848034366
I hope some of you take the time to explore one or more of my four favorite farang food facilities when you're visiting my hometown. Marie (nannyre)