Chiang Mai ought to be one of the most vegan friendly cities in the world. There are so many good places to eat that one gets spoilt for choice (which, believe me, is not a common thing for us!) What is even better yet, is the wide variety of the food on offer - from middle eastern hummus delights and japanese whole foods, to traditional burmese or westernized fast food. And of course plentiful of thai dishes! (When up north you simply have to try the regional speciality Khao Soi).
I spent the first week of November eating my way through two handfuls of these restaurants... all in the name of science of course! Here is my recommendations in a, somewhat, chronological order.
Free Bird Cafe
116 Maneenopparat Rd (just outside the north east corner of the Old City)
Fully vegan as of October 2017, Free Bird House is such a gem! Not only because of the fabulous menu (lavender latte anyone?), the quirky interiors or the second hand shop in the back, but all the profits made go towards helping minorities, and in particular Burmese refugees.
They do western style foods like french toast, pancakes and smoothie bowls, along with traditional burmese meals. I had the papaya shan salad, apple cider limade and a lavender latte made beautifully by the barista. Throughout the month Free Bird hosts a range of events. One particularly eye-catching is the lunch meet up Nomad Girls Wednesdays. Definitely need to check that out next time around!
Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant
Nimmanhaemin Rd, Soi Hillside 3 (opposite Nimmanhaemin soi 11)
If you are heading to check out Nimman, Anchan is a must. What I enjoyed most about this place is how relaxed it feels compared to its city centre counterparts. The food is super tasty (I had the green curry with pumpkin) with vegan options clearly marked on the colourful chalk board that makes up the menu. All in line with the slogan adorning their sign outside the door "vegetarian food so good you won't miss the meat". There is also a nice terrace to enjoy the breeze from whilst observing the street below.
2/1 Samlan Rd, Soi 5 (close of Nong Buak Hard Park)
Hidden away in a small soi at the south west corner of the city, Amrita serves small but satisfying portions. The food is kind of traditional Japanese meets western macrobiotics. They do a lunch set that starts at THB99 which includes a vegetable plate, soup, rice and some tea. Unfortunately this was finished by the time I got there, instead I had a plate of eggplant carpaccio with a plain onigiri - which was both delightful and felt like a very fresh meal in all its simplicity.
The ingredients are all organic and the Amrita crew makes as much as possible from scratch themselves, which is rather impressive. Other items of the menu include an eggplant lasagna and vegan cheese platters.
1/4 Suriyawong Rd
Aum is one of Chiang Mai's oldest, and best established, vegetarian restaurants. They recently moved into a new more spacious location, after years close to Thapae Gate, to better deal with the crowds that tend to appear around lunchtime. The food served makes it well worth the walk "outside" the city gates though. The menus are a little confusing and leave little in terms of description but it is all forgiven when you taste the food. It is simply gorgeous! I had the fresh spring rolls and a Khao Soi - done properly with the complimentary, and essential!, pickled cabbage and raw shallots. If there is any where to have the vegan version of the traditional northern thai dish, this is the place!
1/4 Sripoom Rd, Soi 7
The restaurant of Green Tiger Guesthouse, run by a Thai/Swiss duo, is certified fully vegan as of July 2017. I had the mushroom burger with garden chips and a standard salad. At THB150 this was the priciest of the meals I tried once in Chiang Mai, but Reform is a little fancier than the average establishments and I felt like trying something equally fancy whilst at it. The burger turned out to be real tasty, with plenty of earthy tones along with a very creamy vegan mayonnaise. Yum! Along with some traditional thai dishes, they also do things like almond milk lassis and espresso affogatos. Bonus for the cosy garden feel and smily waiting staff!
Moon Muang Rd, Soi 9
I have been going to Blue Diamond for years. After several features in Lonely Planet, it is safe to say that the prices have increased along with the popularity. But I, along with plenty familiar faces, still keep coming back - so it is clearly well deserved. While they do serve meat, there is plenty of vegan options - particularly cakes from their bakery in the front, which also serves as a health food store. The garden with its many pillows is a great place to relax during a hot day... or regular night. A must is the raw cashew and chocolate cake. Pure divinity!
The Salad Concept
Nimmanhaemin Rd, Soi 13
+ new location at Chaiyapoom Rd, soi 1
I remember the first time I went into the, original, Salad Concept restaurant in Nimman in 2013 and thought it was so quirky yet brilliant how you can make up your own salad with the little forms found on the tables. So you get 5 free toppings and a dressing for your salad creation, then you can add things on as your taste buds, and budget, desire. The prices are clearly marked on the menu, as well as the SFV salad dressings and toppings. When you are done, you simply pass the check over to your waiter - which is also a bonus when said person might not be the best at communicating with in English.
24 Sri Poom Rd (at Moon Muang Soi 9)
This lovely, family run place serves meat but also cater for a lot of vegan options. The portions are generous (especially the fruit salad) and they also have a wide selection of homemade cakes. What I love most about this place is the familiar feel; you feel that you sitting in the garden of a family home (which indeed you are!) with graduation and wedding photos adorning the walls. The best is how you are always greeted with a big smile!
Da's Home Bakery
11/4 Moonmuang Rd, soi 6
Very good coffee (if you drink it black) but food is quite greasy. Does however also do some vegan baked goods and müsli, so excellent for days when you need a quick grab and go. Cinnamon rolls are supposedly grand.
Taste From Heaven
34/1 Ratmakka Rd
The minds behind the Vegan Heaven restaurants, this place is vegetarian with vegan options. The main reason they are scored this low on my list is because they fail to serve spicy food... in Thailand. This despite me requesting a spicy curry when asked my preference.
Plus points for being cosier than the newbies that have a somewhat sterile interior. The location is also good, as it is close of Thapae Gate and the Sunday Walking Street Market.
44/6 Loi Kroh Rd + Moon Muang soi 9
This restaurant has two branches by the founder behind Taste From Heaven. The three basically have identical menus, except that the Vegan Heaven ones obviously only serves the vegan alternatives. The prices are decent, and I did enjoy the mock-chicken
What brings this place down is the interiors. Painted in orange and green with veg-prone celebrity quotes adorning the walls it all feels a bit sterile... Along with the music that is far too "hip" (a crash course on how to feel old: use the word hip!) for a pleasant dining experience. Except perhaps when they have Westlife blasting out of the speakers. I would also avoid the Khao Soi; the broth tastes alright but unless soggy mushroom balls are your jam - go elsewhere or try to opt for another filling.
Have you tried any of these places? Or do you perhaps have some personal favourites? I would love to hear about it in the comments section!