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Eating the Best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai: 5 Restaurants to Try

best khao soi in Chiang Mai

What is khao soi?

Khao soi is the culinary pride of Chiang Mai, Thailand. A great bowl of khao soi noodles is chewy, crunchy and full of flavours found only in the Golden Triangle. Khao soi is a dense broth made of yellow curry paste, coconut cream and smokey black cardamom. The broth is served with noodles and chicken legs stewed from the soup mixture. The bone-in richness of “Khao Soi Gai” is a one pot perfection when finished with the right amount of coconut cream.

Khao soi always includes a crunchy topping of fried egg noodles and chilli. The textural distinction of Khao soi is what sets this bowl apart from any other Thai curry dishes. In fact, it’s not a “curry” at all. Half stew, Half noodle soup. 

This northern Thai delicacy is one-hundred percent delicious in all forms. Variations of the classic have evolved over the years. A popular beef version and some restaurants offering vegetarian options are among what can be found in the region.

But what makes khao soi so good it’s written about on every Chiang Mai food blog? 

The crown jewel of Chiang Mai Cuisine is unique in both flavor and composition. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this dish so unforgettable.

The bowl. Chewy, golden chinese-style egg noodles are rarely found in traditional Thai cooking. The silky egg noodles are heavier and chewier than Thai rice noodles. These noodles have more body to transport the lighter stew from bowl to mouth. Egg noodles are also less prone to over cooking so they keep their toothsome chew when served in the broth.

The broth. This is where you experience the taste of Chiang mai and the influence of Thailand’s northern borders. It could be debated; Is Khao soi Burmese? Laotian? But we aren’t here to discuss the history of khao soi, only what makes it delicious. In Chiang Mai, food is herbaceous, smokey and less sweet than in the south. The spice mixtures used in the northern provinces of Thailand are most similar to the flavor profiles used in Myanmar. Burmese food has adopted many of the same cooking techniques and spice masalas used in India. While both Thai food and Indian food use curry copiously, they are fathoms different in flavor. Think of Burmese cuisine as the middle ground. Bold masala spice from Burma balanced with the delicate sweetness of  Thai-style coconut cream. That’s what you should taste in a well balanced Khao soi broth.  

The pièce de résistance. Without the crispy fried egg noodles khao soi would be a sad sort-of Laska. While the size, shape and portion may vary between vendors; no khao soi would be complete without it. Tangy pickled greens, shallots, fish sauce, lime wedges, coriander and extra chillies are served as a side dish (or bag if you eat in the street). The nest of noodles provides an island for extra flavor customization. Very rarely will a garnish get so much cred.   

It’s no secret Chiang Mai has limitless options to choose from, so we ate khao soi consecutively for 14 days (sometimes twice) in search of the best. These are our top 5 best khao soi restaurants in Chiang Mai.

The Best Khao Soi I’ve Ever Eaten

I stumbled upon this 70-year-old legend on an aimless early morning wander through Chiang Mai. As luck would have it – this bowl of noodles became the most unforgettable meal I’ve ever had in Thailand.

Spicy-sweet broth, always al dente eggs noodles and garnish goals make Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham worth travelling for. The depth and spice of the oily red soup are an expert level balancing act to which fresh Coconut cream is added. Unlike other versions where coconut cream simmers with the broth for hours, this addition comes last. This variation also lets you have the final say in the taste and texture of your Khao Soi. Like adding cream to your morning coffee, everybody has a preference – Lam Duan Fah Ham lets you choose. Also, coconut cream is delicate and over cooking can cause it to lose its sweet, nutty flavour. Well played, Lamduan!

Lam Duan khao soi

Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham

Located on the Ping River near Wat Fa Ham temple. The humble exterior of Lam Duan Fah Ham might not suggest its nearly century old reputation. Locals and tourists agree without question this is the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai if you’re picky about noodles and like your Khao Soi dense, spicy and salty. Lam Duan Fah Ham might boast the best Khao soi in the world, and word is spreading. The daughter of founder Auntie Lamduan recently Opened a second location a few minutes north of Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. Proof good news and good food travel – do not miss this famous family recipe!

Location: 352/22 Charoen Rat Road near Wat Fa Ham Temple, Chang Phueak, Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand

Contact: +66 53 243 519

Hours of Operation: N/A

Khao Soi Mae Manee

Khao Soi Mae Manee

Khao Soi Mae Manee opened in 1984 serving various noodle dishes. Over time, this humble noodle shop has evolved into a multi-award winning, Michelin-recognized, humble, khao soi hotspot. Claiming to serve “the most flavorful bowl of Khao Soi in Chiang Mai”, Mae Manee specializes in “khao soi neua”, a beef variation. With so much popularity, Mae Manee has opened a second location serving the same family recipes. Both locations are a short 10-20 minute drive outside the Old City and well worth a special trip.  

Location: 18, Soi 24, Chottana Road Changpuak Subdistrict, Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand

Contact: +66 81 961 2235 

Hours of Operation: 9am-3:30pm daily.

Khao Soi Sirichai

Khao Soi Sirichai, Chiang Mai

Come for the Hainanese chicken rice and stay for the Khao Soi. Wait, what? That’s right, poached “khao man gai”  (the Thai word for Hainanese chicken) served up alongside handfuls of khao soi noodles in the thick, oily curry broth we know and love. Sirichai takes a top spot serving up one of the most genius variations of khao soi gai we’ve ever heard of. If you’re a stickler for the classics, a traditional version is also available. We recommend the remix and saving room for chicken rice!

You can find Khao Soi Sirichai in the center of the Old City a block east of the Three Kings Monument. You’re welcome.

Location: Inthawarorot Rd., Chiang Mai 50200 Thailand

Contact: +66 81 672 6756

Hours of Operation: 6am-3pm daily.

Khao Soi Khun Yai 

Khao Soi Khun Yai

Loosely translated, Khao Soi Khun Yai means “Grandma’s Khao Soi.” What’s better than food lovingly prepared by your grandma? Easy, khao soi. Now we have the best of both worlds.

This popular spot is located inside the Old City on the Northern wall. The sign is only in Thai so keep an eye out for the green tarps tucked between two temples. 

Location: Sri Poom Road Just After Sri Poom 8 Alley, Chiang Mai Thailand

Contact: +66 86 712 4314

Hours of Operation: 10am-2pm daily. Closed Sundays.


Dash! Chiang Mai restaurant

The best khao soi almost always includes a low plastic stool and is only available until the mid afternoon. Some might say sitting sweaty on the sidewalk slurping noodles has a romance of its own. Dash! Is NOT that.

With its traditional teak interior, live music and balconies overlooking the garden terrace. Dash! may not be what you think of when you’re in need of a mind-blowing bowl of noodles. 

However, the mother-son team at Dash! have gained a reputation for their exceptional service and you guessed it, Khao soi. 

Ambiance abound, Dash! Is located in the heart of Chiang Mai only a few blocks from Thapae Gate and open late! Get there early or you might have to wait to try one of the best restaurants Chiang Mai has to offer.

Location: 18, Soi 24, Chottana Road Changpuak Subdistrict, Chiang Mai 50000 Thailand

Contact: +66 81 961 2235

Hours of Operation: 8:30am- 2:00pm, 5:30pm-9:00pm daily. Closed Mondays.

Khao Soi is a Chiang Mai Cuisine Staple

Chiang Mai and Thailand’s rural border villages are the home and birthplace of khao soi. Served and celebrated by street carts and fine dining rooms everywhere there’s no difficulty finding this delicious delicacy. Nowhere offers a higher concentration of varieties to choose from. To become a khao soi connoisseur, stroll down any street in Chiang Mai, find a low stool and deep dive into the region’s signature dish. It might be the best thing you’ve ever eaten. 

Could you eat khao soi everyday? Khao soi lovers let us know your favorite place to eat khao soi in the comments below.

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Thai Curries 101: How to Make Traditional Thai Curry Pastes

how to make traditional Thai curries

Learn How to Make Traditional Thai Curries

Thai curries are as complex and regionally varied as the many cultures that call Thailand home. 

From the southern Malay flavors of Massaman, to the famous Khao Soy of the northern borders, Thai curry pastes are the base on which all other ingredients build to create the perfect sweet, salty, sour and spicy balance the food of Thailand is known for.

If you’re a lover of Thai food or are wanting to relive your travels through South East Asia through food, you need to know how to make your own traditional Thai curry pastes. 

I was once told at a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai the only way to “find a good husband” was to be efficient with a mortar and pestle. Alas, curry pastes are a labour of love. Creating the perfect paste will take a bit of elbow grease but your efforts will be rewarded once you taste the final product.

making authentic Thai curry
Take me back to the tastes of Thailand!

Essential Thai Ingredients

If you’ve never heard of or tasted the ingredients you will need to make curry pastes at home, the list can be intimidating. We’ve included a short glossary of lesser-known ingredients and substitutions for ingredients that may be more difficult to find in the Western world. With the exception of a few very specific ingredients, it is possible to find most required ingredients at your local Asian import market

Northern Thailand fresh produce market
I could walk through these Northern Thai markets for hours…

Sweet Basil (Bai horapa) – The most commonly used basil in Thai cuisine. Has darker leaves than others with purple tinged leaves, also has a sweet licorice flavor. It is okay to substitute Italian basil if sweet thai basil isn’t available.

Holy Basil (Bai mang rak) – Often used in Thai fish dishes, holy basil has a peppery taste that is released when cooking.

Green Cardamom (Luk grawan) – The most common type are straw-coloured pods containing 8-10 tiny black seeds. It’s sweet and floral with hints of citrus. A favorite in sweet dishes, teas, diary treats and green curries.

Black Cardamom (Luk krawan) – Large firm black-brown pods. Black cardamom  is strong and smokey with an almost minty finish good for curries and stew. Black and green cardamom are not interchangeable. However, in savory dishes omission is worse than substitution. 

Coconut Cream (Nam maprow) – Typically the first squeeze of a mature coconut, it’s richer and much thicker than coconut milk. Water can be added to coconut cream to substitute coconut milk. Add 2tbsp coconut cream to ¾ cup water for coconut milk.

Coriander (Pak chee) – Cilantro in the West, Thais might use more coriander than any other cuisine. The roots of coriander are often used in creating curry pastes. 

Fish Sauce (Nam pla) – Thai cuisine would not exist without this distinctive flavor. Used similarly to soy sauce in Chinese cooking. Made with fermented fish or shrimp it has a salty tang and is lessy “fishy” and more umami than you’d think. Do not omit from recipes unless there are allergies. In which case tamari or soy can be used (I guess).

Galangal (Kha) – Thai ginger is a larger and lighter version of traditional ginger, and is used in almost every curry paste and thai soup. The softer, more vegetal flavor of galangal makes it hard to substitute with regular ginger.

Ginger (King) – In Thai food ginger is used mainly young and fresh, and added to dishes last.

Thai ginseng (Kra chai) – Adds an earthy, woody, sweet (barley?) taste that helps balance complex curries.

Kaffir lime (Makrut) – The leaves, the rind and wrinkly little lime fruit are all used for flavoring Thai curry dishes. There is no substitute for kaffir lime leaves, however you can get away with substituting the juice and peel of regular limes.

Lemongrass (Bai takrai) – This long leek-looking grass is a staple in South East Asian cuisine; there are no true substitutes for its intensely lemony flavor, but lemon zest and a small amount of juice could do in a pinch.

Turmeric (Kamin) – Rich and pungent, this cousin to ginger will stain everything so beware. It’s a bit sweet, a bit bitter – tastes like yellow-orange. As a rule of thumb, you can substitute fresh turmeric for half dried. 

Palm Sugar (Naam taan peep) – Made from the sap of coconut palms or the sugar palm tree, palm sugar is less sweet than cane sugar. You can substitute one for the other, although the flavor won’t be compromised much but the texture of your curry may be altered. We don’t recommend it.

Peppercorns (Prik thai) – While black peppercorns are most commonly used in Thai cooking, fresh green peppercorns are used for green curry and in sauces and salads. Green peppercorns can be difficult to find in the west, but are worth the search if you can find them at an Asian market in your city. There is no substitution. 

Tamarind Concentrate (Makaam) – Is it sweet? Is it sour? It’s tamarind. It can only depend on what this unique ingredient is mixed with. Often a vital ingredient balancing thai noodle dishes but is also used in northern-style curries.

Star Anise (Poy kak bua) – A dried, star shaped spice with a pungent licorice or aniseed flavor.

Methods for Making Thai Chili Paste at Home

mortar and pestle grinding spices
Mortar and pestle for the win!

Mortar and Pestle vs Food Processor

You would likely never see a food processor being used to blend curries in a Thai household. While you can use a food processor to combine curries into a paste, it isn’t recommended.

Food processors quickly macerate all ingredients into a single homogeneous blend. Not only will this alter the texture of your final product, it will change the flavor. 

A mortar, pestle and a bit of patience will ensure all the flavors in your mixture are being broken and blended slowly, releasing all the spicey nuances of your favorite curry mixture. 

Toasting Spices, Nuts and Seeds for Curry Paste 

DO NOT skip this step. Toasting dry spices before adding them to curry pastes helps the oils inside spices release more of their aromatic properties. This helps flavors to blend and develop into a deeper, more complex flavor.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high and add dry spice ingredients. Stir until spices are a shade or two darker and are very fragrant. Be careful not to burn spices.

To toast nuts and seeds, spread over a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden. 

Rehydrating Dried Chillies and Spices

In the case of dried chillies, often you will need to rehydrate them. This method allows them to blend more evenly into the curry pastes. I like to use the same method to wake up dried or frozen kaffir lime leaves or remove tough outer pods from black cardamom. Place the ingredients in a small heat safe bowl and cover with boiling water and wait 10 minutes. 

Traditional Thai Curry Paste Recipes 

Most Thai curry pastes have similar starting points in terms of ingredients. The variations are often very slight but change the flavor profile entirely. Red curry shares the majority of its ingredients with most other pastes. The mother of Thai curry paste is used to build almost all  other regional variations. Here’s our list of our favorite curry pastes. 

Once you have measured your ingredients and toasted your dry spices,add them to your mortar and pestle then start smashing! You’re only about 15 minutes away from a traditionally prepared Thai curry paste, enjoy!

Recipe to Roam Tip: Use a tea towel draped over the mortar while smashing to protect your eyes from being assaulted by fiery, freaking hot chilli juice splatter.

chicken khao soi recipe
The perfect curry, and our favorite, Khao Soy.

Red Curry Paste

10 chillies red dried big chillies (chopped and rehydrated) 

3 tbsp chopped shallots 

2 tbsp minced garlic 

1 tbsp chopped galangal 

1 tbsp chopped lemongrass 

1 tbsp Thai ginseng

1 tbsp shrimp paste or sub salt ¼ tsp

1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime peel 

1 tbsp fresh coriander root 

Green Curry Paste

10 fresh green chillies 

1 tbsp green peppercorns (optional) 

2 stalks of sweet basil 

3 tbsp chopped shallots 

2 tbsp minced garlic 

1 tbsp chopped galangal 

2 tbsp chopped lemongrass 

1 tbsp Thai ginseng

1 tbsp shrimp paste or sub salt ¼ tsp

1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime peel 

1 tbsp fresh coriander root 

Yellow Curry Paste

10 chillies red dried big chillies (chopped and boiled) 

3 tbsp chopped shallots 

2 tbsp minced garlic 

2 tbsp chopped galangal 

1 tbsp chopped lemongrass 

1 tbsp Thai ginseng

1 tbsp shrimp paste or sub salt ¼ tsp 

1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime peel 

1 tbsp fresh coriander root 

½ tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds 

¼ dry white pepper corn 

1 tsp curry powder 

1-2 tbsp turmeric 

Panang Curry Paste 

10 chillies red dried big chillies (chopped and rehydrated) 

3 tbsp chopped shallots 

2 tbsp minced garlic 

1 tbsp chopped galangal 

1 tbsp chopped lemongrass

1 tbsp Thai ginseng

1 tbsp shrimp paste or sub salt ¼ tsp 

1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime peel 

1 tbsp fresh coriander root 

2 tbsp roasted peanuts 

½  tsp coriander seeds 

¼  dry white pepper corn 

1 tsp curry powder 

1 tbsp turmeric 

Jungle Curry Paste

10 chillies red dried big chillies (chopped and boiled) 

3-5 fresh red chili

3 tbsp chopped shallots 

3 tbsp minced garlic 

1 tbsp chopped galangal 

2 tbsp chopped lemongrass

1 tbsp thai ginseng

1 tbsp shrimp paste or sub salt ¼ tsp 

1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime peel 

1 tbsp fresh coriander root 

Massaman Curry Paste (Nam Prik Gaeng Mussaman)

5 chillies red dried big chillies (chopped and rehydrated) 

3 tbsp chopped shallots 

2 tbsp minced garlic 

1 tbsp chopped galangal 

1 tbsp chopped lemongrass 

1 tbsp Thai ginseng

½ tbsp shrimp paste or sub salt ¼ tsp 

1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime peel 

1 tbsp fresh coriander root 

1 tbsp turmeric

½ tsp coriander 

½ cumin seeds 

½  tsp dry peppercorn 

½ tbsp curry powder 

1 tsp cinnamon 

1 tsp black cardamom 

1 tbsp cloves 

2 star anise pods

Khao Soy Curry Paste 

10 chillies red dried big chillies (chopped and boiled) 

3 tbsp chopped shallots 

2 tbsp minced garlic 

1 tbsp chopped galangal 

1 tbsp chopped lemongrass 

1 tbsp thai ginseng

1 tbsp shrimp paste or sub salt ¼ tsp 

1 tbsp chopped kaffir lime peel 

1 tbsp fresh coriander root ½ tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cumin seeds 

¼ dry white peppercorn 

1 tbsp curry powder 

1 tbsp black cardamom 

1-2 tbsp fresh turmeric or ½ tsp dried 

How long does curry paste last?

Basic curry pastes can be stored in a covered glass jar in a refrigerator for 1 month, or frozen for up to 4 months. Curry recipes make enough paste for most recipes serving 3-4. Enjoy!

Did this get you hungry? Add our Thai curry pastes to your personal cookbook and check out more of our Thai recipes for a true taste of Thailand.

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Vietnam Cafe Culture: How to Make Vietnamese Coffee

how to make Vietnamese coffee

How to Make Authentic Vietnamese Coffee at Home

Saigon is the Heart of Vietnam’s cafe culture. Vietnamese coffee in bustling Saigon is a delight, brewed in history and undoubtedly worth travelling to taste. With many hipster-cool, Instagram worthy and cafe-bar hybrids popping up in Saigon, it’s become a favored daily habit for locals and travellers alike. Personally, we couldn’t get enough of Ho Chi Minh City and crave it often. 2 Vietnamese restaurants even made our top 10 Nanaimo restaurants list!

Saigon café culture really has something for everyone, and it’s easy to stumble upon greatness. For students or expats looking for a jittery jolt of caffeine to get them through the day, we love Things Café in rustic Ton That Dam Apartment Block. For anyone in the expat-heavy District 3, we recommend I.D. Café. Relax with lunch then recharge with an iced coffee on their garden patio.

What makes coffee from Vietnam so different, you ask? Well, Vietnamese coffee is STRONG and can often be too bitter without the addition of sweetened condensed milk, but more on that later.

coffee pouring in Things Cafe, Saigon
📷 Photo Credit: Things Cafe Facebook Page

What is Vietnamese coffee? 

To understand what makes Vietnamese coffee unique from other caffeinated drinks you’ve tried, let’s take a second to understand Vietnam. History, geography, culture, climate and conquest have all had a hand in shaping Vietnamese coffee into what we rave about today. Here’s the buzz behind the rich history.

2 types of coffee beans

The 2 Types of Coffee Beans: Robusta and Arabica

The Bean; Arabica vs Robusta. There are two types of coffee beans, each with their own unique flavor profile. European pallets have long preferred the softer, less acrid, often South American grown tones of the Arabica bean. For most of the world, Arabica coffee is what we consume daily. Robusta coffee beans are bitter, less acidic and have nearly double the amount of caffeine and antioxidants. In addition to having more of the stimulating properties than the arabica bean, robusta beans are easier to cultivate. The Robusta plant is as strong as the caffeine punch it packs. Producing a higher yield and being less susceptible to pests and disease, the plant also prefers the lower elevations and humid air of Vietnam’s central highlands. It’s no wonder why Vietnam’s state-owned plantations are the world’s largest producer of robusta beans. 

The Method; During the French Colonization of Vietnam, French dignitaries with a penchant for the caffeinated comforts of home introduced coffee roasting and preparation techniques from western europe. The result was a parisian-style dark roasted bean, ground medium then passed through a pour-over/percolator hybrid filter. This small metal filter later became known as a “phin”.

The “Milk”; Vietnam was not a dairy-consuming culture until the 90’s, when dairy farming gained popularity. Not having access to fresh dairy or proper refrigeration to keep it from spoiling created a need for variations to the cream and sugar that most coffee connoisseurs aren’t accustomed too. The most popular preparation is made with sweetened condensed milk, while others are more adventurous.

Vietnamese phin coffee filter

How to Order Coffee in Vietnamese

Ordering coffee in another language can be a struggle, especially if it’s your first cup of the day. Here is our fail safe guide to ordering your perfect cup of Vietnamese Coffee along with a few regional variations for you to try. 

CA PHE – “Ca phe”means “coffee” and is pronounced similarly. Begin with “ca phe” and follow with your favorite variation. ie: Ca Phe Sua Dong…Simple, right ? 

  • SUA DONG – iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk. 
  • SUA NONG – Coffee with sweetened condensed milk, hot. 
  • DEN DA – Black with sugar and ice. 
  • DEN NONG – Black with sugar. 
  • DEN DA KHONG DONG – Strong, Black with ice. 
  • DEN NONG KHONG DONG – Strong, Black hot coffee. 
  • TRUNG – “Egg Coffee” Sua Nong with meringue, rich, sweet and decadent.
  • SUA CHUA – Replaces milk with yogurt, adding a pleasant sweet sour edge.
  • DUA – Creamy Coconut smoothie with a shot of coffee. YUM. 

Which Vietnamese coffee are you most excited to try next ?

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee at Home

If you’re not in Saigon and you’re craving the distinct kick of Vietnamese Coffee, here’s how we make it at home. This is what you’ll need:

1. Prepare your Coffee, Cup and Filter 

Longevity Brand condensed milk

Measure your desired amount of coffee and distribute it evenly into your phin filter, take the lid from the phin and place it face up underneath the coffee and filter. Use a small amount of hot water to very carefully just wet the coffee grounds.

This process is called the “bloom” and helps the flavors of the coffee be released from the bean develop into a more chocolatey complex cup. Let bloom for 3-5 minutes while you prepare your cup.

Measure 2-4 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk into a heat-proof glass or cup depending on your desired sweetness level.

Next, get your phin and coffee. Remove the lid from under the bloomed coffee. If there are any dips from the lid, you can add them to the sweetened condensed milk before placing the filter on top of your cup. 

2. The POUR! 

making vietnamese coffee at home

Slowly pour hot water over the coffee grounds. Fill the filter ⅔ the way up the filter. Place the lid on top of the filter and let the water work its magic.

Wait 4-5 minutes and most of the water should have filtered through.

Resist the urge to tap or shake the filter. Forcing coffee through the filter will clog it and weaken the flavor of your coffee. 

3. Stir and ENJOY!

homemade Vietnamese coffee

Once the water has passed through the coffee filter, remove the filter and slowly stir the coffee into the sweetened condensed milk.

If you wish to enjoy this drink cold, pour over ice and enjoy the intensely strong and sweet flavor of Vietnam coffee culture. 

If you haven’t tried Vietnamese coffee, be prepared for a caffeine kick in the pants like no other. Vietnamese coffee is unlike any other coffee in the world. Its unique flavor, complexity and silky texture make it one of our favorites. Drink up!

Vietnamese iced coffee

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The 10 Best Restaurants in Nanaimo (2022)

best restaurants in Nanaimo

Recipe to Roam’s Top 10 Restaurants in Nanaimo

Located centrally on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is a diverse community that brings flavors of the world to the plate. That said, my favorite places to eat in Nanaimo cover a diverse palate from Paris to Tokyo.

Top 10 Restaurants in Nanaimo

  • Milton Street Public House
  • Bistro Tayio
  • Jalapenos
  • Pho V TA
  • Sealand Pho
  • Trattoria La Stella
  • Astera’s Greek Taverna
  • Mon Petit Choux
  • Burnt Honey

Article last updated on February 4th, 2021 – Minor typos fixed!

1. Milton Street Public House

On Milton Street in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter, this Public House has a charming English feel without being dusty or over-the-top kitsch. Its consistently cool, laid back vibe can make it a bit of a sleeper in the food department. Who doesn’t like surprises? The refined menu is stacked full of classic, thoughtfully composed dishes I crave and keep returning for. They also have prosecco on tap…need I say more?

My Order: Spicy Calamari, Fungi Flatbread(seasonal), cannelloni, a Kir Royal and the posset dessert.

Address: 247 Milton St, Nanaimo, BC V9R 2K5

Contact: (250) 591-1090

Hours of Operation: Daily 11:30am-9pm, CLOSED MONDAYS

2. Bistro Tayio

To my knowledge, Bistro Tayio is the only Japanese chef-owned sushi bar and izakaya in the central island region. That’s enough to make Bistro Tayio my go-to whenever I’m craving the real deal and missing Tokyo. While their sushi is hands-down the best in town, fresh and expert level 100, I’ll admit I go for their ramen. At one point, I was ordering 2-3 times a week. Obsessed. Staff are always amazing, perfectly accommodating and they deliver! Arigato arigato gozaimasu, Bistro Tayio!

My Order: Spicy Tantanmen Ramen, add Egg.

Address: 321 Wesley St, Nanaimo, BC V9R 2T5

Contact: (250) 716-8861

Hours of Operation: Mon/Fri 10am-10pm, Sat 2pm-10pm, CLOSED SUNDAY

3. Jalapenos

Mexican restaurant in Nanaimo

Located directly across from Vancouver Island University, wedged between a gas station and a laneway. You might miss it. Don’t. This Mexican owned and operated eatery is uncomplicated and about as “authentic Tex-Mex” as it gets without being extra (ie: nacho cheese). Everything from the kitchen is simple, affordable and exactly what you need. Although there are no bells, whistles or liquor licence, Jalapenos satisfies every time. They have 3 house made hot sauces to choose and pre covid-19, they did a taco buffet on Sundays. Damn…

Address: 450-B Wakesiah Ave, Nanaimo, BC V9R 3K9

Contact: (778) 441-4020

Hours of Operation: Daily 11am – 7:30pm CLOSED MONDAYS

4. Pho V TA Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho V Ta, Nanaimo, BC

The first and most authentic of my two favorite Vietnamese restaurants in the Nanaimo. Pho V Ta isn’t fancy. However, its cafeteria style dining room with “eclectic” decor does remind me of  Vietnam. Yes, the Pho broth is the best in Nanaimo but that’s not why I keep going back. It’s always Bun bo hue. Pho’s lemony, richly layered, spicy cousin is a regionally specific bowl of slurpy noodles that can be tricky to find on the island. Pho V Ta’s BBH is perfectly balanced and spiced. This dish is traditionally prepared with a fatter, round noodle, pigs’ blood and a variety of other processed “meat”. If that’s too authentic for you, you can sub Pho noodles and rare beef or brisket as I do.

My Order: Bun Bo Hue sub Pho noodle and rare beef, Vietnamese crepe (only available weekends) or the Mi Xao “chow mein special”

Address: 1-1601 Bowen Rd Nanaimo, BC V9S1G6

Contact: 250-591-1746

Hours of Operation: Mon/Fri 11am-8pm, Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm  

5. Sealand Pho

SeaLand Pho dining room

New to the scene is the best Vietnamese restaurant in Nanaimo, Sealand Pho. Overlooking Nanaimo Yacht club, Sealand Pho is one of the shockingly few waterfront eateries in Nanaimo. Arguably the best Banh Mi I’ve ever tasted, their Vietnamese sub overshadows any bowl of Pho I’ve had in the western hemisphere. Its perfectly crispy, chewy baguette comes in 5 delicious combinations including a kimchi tofu option for veggies and a pate to die for. With floor to ceiling windows letting natural light flood the dining room, it’s hard to believe this space has seen so many kitchens come and go. In warmer months, Sealand Pho secretly has one of the best patios in the city.

My Order: Lemongrass Grilled Chicken Banh Mi, Special Vermicelli.

Address: 101-1240 Stewart Ave, Nanaimo, BC V9S 4C9

Contact: (250) 591-6688

Hours of Operation: Daily 11:00am – 8:00pm CLOSED MONDAY

6. Manvirros Indian Grill

Mavirro's butter chicken

Alright Manvirros, you straight up owe me two raitas and an order of chutneys. I’ll admit I’ve only ordered Mavirros from SkipTheDishes, minding our social distancing and all. My last three orders have been missing items! I called the restaurant to let them know, they were salty about it and suggested I just come pick up the forgotten items. Is it just me or does that defeat the purpose of paying a delivery fee? Anyway, I’m still happy to have them in the top ten, after all it’s about the food, and Manvirros is killin’ it. The portions are huge, food is always fresh and the curries are deliciously complex. Don’t skip the raita – even if you have to pick it up yourself!

My Order: 2x Raita, 2x Garlic naan, Samosa Chaat, Paneer Pasanda, Lamb Rogan Josh, Jerra Rice. Side Butter Chicken Sauce. Nice. 

Address: 1045B Terminal Avenue, Nanaimo, BC, V9S4K3

Contact: (250) 591-0558

Hours of Operation: Daily 11:00am-2:30pm  4:00pm-10:00pm 

7. La Stella Trattoria

best pizza in Nanaimo

Nanaimo’s first wood fired pizza oven at Trattoria la stella does not disappoint. Neapolitan style crusts, hand stretched in front of you and topped with delicious combinations of locally sourced ingredients. With fresh made pasta and beef carpaccio (if it takes another turn on the menu), you can’t really go wrong here. The experienced service staff make Trattoria perfect for a first date or anniversary. In summer months, I like to take advantage of the take out menu then hit up the waterfront for a sneaky bottle of wine and pizza picnic.

My Order: Brussel Sprouts, Prosciutto, Funghi Pizza.

Address: 321 Wesley St #1, Nanaimo, BC V9R 2T5

Contact: (778) 441-4668

Hours of Operation: Wed/Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri/Sat/Sun 4pm-9pm

8. Astera’s Greek Taverna 

Astera's Greek Restaurant - wine

A favorite of many locals, Astera’s is a popular choice whenever there is something to be celebrated. There’s always a buzz – whether it’s the music or the free flowing sambuca shots served enthusiastically by the host. You get the best of Greek hospitality. The 100 year old heritage home is nestled in the heart of the Old City quarter and still has many charming features of the era. Pre-pandemic, it could get pretty cozy. My advice: Make a reservation in the sunroom a few days in advance. 

My Order: Roast Lamb, Moussaka, Seafood Mezethes. Wine in high quantities.   

Address:  347 Wesley St, Nanaimo, BC V9R 3A7

Contact: (250) 716-0451

Hours of Operation: 9am to 5pm Daily

9. Mon Petit Choux Bakery

best bakery in Nanaimo, Mon Petit Choux

Mon Petit Choux is the best restaurant downtown Nanaimo. It’s a cafe, but not a paper cup cafe. This cafe offers a breakfast / lunch menu that showcases their bakery’s freshly baked breads and pastries. The casual european feel invites you to stay a little longer and to enjoy the organic, locally-sourced food, read a book, catch up on some emails or order another croissant. 

My Order: Eggs Benedict, Tuna Niçoise. 

Address: 120 Commercial St, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5G6

Contact: (250) 753-6002

Hours of Operation: Tue/Sat 12pm-10pm, Sun 4pm-10pm CLOSED MONDAY

10. Burnt Honey Dessert Company

Burnt Honey, Nanaimo ice cream parlor

Last but certainly not least, we have the best dessert in Nanaimo! Wife and Wife team, Kara and Fiona Shedden opened one of the sweetest artisan ice cream parlours I’ve ever seen. Their commitment to sourcing ingredients from local suppliers has made for some unforgettable, carefully considered and never seen flavor profiles. Caramel Apple, Almond Brittle Salted Ganache, Carrot Cake, Basil Lemonade, Strawberry Rose Sorbet to name a few. They also offer their unique versions of a few classics like TigerTiger, MintChoco and Cookie and Milk. For anyone with dietary preferences or restrictions, they also offer a few brilliant vegan options. Oh, and did I mention Burnt Honey makes all their waffle cones from scratch? If there’s fresh cones when you visit, don’t hesitate to indulge!

My Order: Anything I haven’t tried in one of their fresh waffle cones!

Address: 96-3200 N Island Hwy, Nanaimo, BC V9T 1W1

Contact: (250) 585-1446

Hours of Operation: Daily 12pm-6pm CLOSED MONDAYS

Did we miss one of your favorite restaurants in Nanaimo?

These are our personal picks for the 10 best restaurants Nanaimo has to offer, but if we missed a hidden gem or favourite of yours, let us know in the comments!

Honourable Mentions (Close to Nanaimo)

Just a short drive from the city…and worth it…

  • Roberts Street Pizza – that crust though. 
  • Maya Norte – Spanish/Mexican fusion, Marg or the rocks and empanadas.
  • Crow and Gate Pub – Beautiful English Toudor style pub and gardens.
  • Mahle House – I’m still butthurt they fired me but their food is unmatched in the area.