Bangkok has an amazing range of local restaurants serving street food style menus in open fronted shop houses, with a fan to cool you if you’re lucky. The city is peppered with these restaurants as almost every meal is eaten out, making it one of the world’s greatest – and most affordable – cities for food lovers. Local restaurants in Bangkok are classified as those with at least 75% local clientele, cheap and cheerful cutlery, empty gas canisters lined up against the wall, perhaps a shrine in one corner and pictures of revered monks and beloved kings on the walls.
Plastic plates, aluminum cups and outdated furnishings aside, the best of these unassuming restaurants serve up unbelievably good Thai food, often specialising in a particular recipe that is handed down through generations. This list of the best local street food restaurants is a mixture of our longstanding favourites and some of the best we’ve found lately. We would happily send our friends to any of these local restaurants in Bangkok for a true taste of authentic street food.
Thip Samai Pad Thai
This famous restaurant should be on everyone’s list of the best local restaurants in Bangkok. Commonly known as Ghost Gate (Pratu Pee), it is widely considered to serve the best pad Thai in Bangkok, which pretty much makes it the best in the world. Ingredients are incredibly fresh, portions are filling and, as it is cooked on charcoal at high heat, it is served moist but not at all oily. Plus, the sight of the row of woks being tossed over flames is a classic snapshot of Bangkok food culture.
Presented in a thin cocoon of egg, pad Thai at Thip Samai Restaurant bursts with steam and aroma when pierced, with options costing from 60 baht up to 200 baht. Also try the delicious 100% fresh orange juice brought direct from the countryside every day. Expect a queue and take any table you can find, either inside the open faced restaurant or on the stainless steel benches outside.
What to Order: pad Thai shrimp (ผัดไทกุ้ง) and orange juice.
- Opening Hours: 17:00 – 01:00 (earlier on weekends)
- Location: 313 Mahachai Road, Old City (close to Wat Saket)
Jae Fai Restaurant
Jae Fai Restaurant benefits from its location next door to Thip Samai Pad Thai Restaurant, but for many experienced street food connoisseurs in Bangkok, this is the real draw card for genuine local Thai food. First thing to note is the price: 400 baht for a crab omelet is expensive for local food in any country, especially Thailand, land of the 30 baht plate. But considering the huge chunks of white crab meat, juicy river prawns and other premium ingredients, it is definitely worth the price.
The rolled crab omelet is famed at Jae Fai, along with crispy noodle seafood rad na (starchy gravy dish ladled over prawns, squid and mussels) and drunken noodles – the dish that Rick Stein ate that first made this restaurant famous among westerners. Service can be slow so you need patience at Jae Fai, but they do say ‘good things come to those who wait’.
What to Order: crab omelet, served as a large roll filled with fresh, white crab meat. (ไข่เจียวปู)
- Opening Hours: 17:00 – 01:00
- Location: 327 Mahachai Road, Old City (next door to Thip Samai Pad Thai)
Wattana Panich Restaurant
This old shop house on Ekkamai Road is easy to spot thanks to the absolutely enormous stewing pot at the entrance. Bubbling away all day are tender cubes of braised beef in rich gravy that keeps the meat tender and deliciously succulent, with added flavour coming from the use of Chinese herbs such as star anise, cinnamon and small goji berries. Certainly, Wattana Panich Restaurant is among the very best local restaurants in Bangkok, and the open faced shophouse is so typically Thai it could be used in a movie set. This beef is served with noodles, starting from 80 baht for regular or 100 baht for a large bowl, and there is also the option of even more tender goat meat starting from 200 baht.
As is the norm in most local Bangkok restaurants, Wattana Panich has a range of noodles to choose from, with large, flat ‘sen yai’, medium sized ‘sen lek’, or hair-thin ‘sen mee’ noodles. Everyone has a different preference so it’s really up to you to try them all and see which you like best.
What to Order: Beef noodles – the type of noodle is up to you! (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเนื้อ)
- Opening Hours: 10:00 - 20:00
- Location: 336 Ekkamai Soi 18, Sukhumvit Road
Really blurring the line between local restaurant and street food in Bangkok, Lek Seafood Silom occupies a corner unit underneath Chong Nonsi BTS Skytrain Station in Bangkok. There is a small open-faced dining room but tables spill out on the street in true Bangkok style, with hustle and bustle of Naratiwat Road as your backdrop. Come here for exceptional seafood such as steamed catfish with chilli and lime, chilli crab, spicy and sour tom yum seafood soup and shellfish of dazzling variety.
Keeping the mood truly local, chairs are plastic, tables are stainless steel and beer should be drunk with ice. Thanks to its location close to Silom Road, the menu is in English and all staff have at least working English so you can always get your point across. For genuine quality local food in Silom, Lek is a shining star.
What To Order: steamed catfish in lime and chilli (ปลานึ่งมะนาว), spicy cockle salad (ยำหอยแครง) Read More...
- Opening Hours: 17:00 - 01:00
- Tel: +66 (0)2 636 6460
- How to get there: Underneath Chong Nonsi BTS Skytrain Station. It's located beneath the skytrain platform that goes towards Saphan Taksin, at 156 Soi Phiphat, Narathiwatrachanakharin Road, Silom.
Sabai Jai Gai Yang
This Issan (the northeast region of Thailand) restaurant is a great location for a local dinner in an open air but under cover environment. Honestly, everything we ordered from their sizable menu was impressive, and with plenty of pictures, don’t worry if you’re not sure which dish is which – just point and smile!
Considering this restaurant has grilled chicken in their name (Gai Yang in Thai), obviously they are proud of this dish and it is highly recommended: juicy, tender, with a toasted chilli dip. Other options to try include grilled liver, larb pork salad and fresh papaya salad. Located on Ekkamai Road close to Soi 1, Sabai Jai Gai Yang also has karaoke rooms if you and your friends fancy singing a few numbers, as well as an indoor section with air conditioning and live bands on weekends.
What to Order: grilled chicken, papaya salad, larb pork (ไก่ย่าง / ส้มตำและ / ลาบหมู)
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 24:00
- Address: Ekkamai Soi 1, Sukhumvit Road
Jok is Thailand’s version of rice porridge, surely the most humble dish it is possible to find in the land of strong herbs and biting spices. Typically, this dish is served in food courts and street stalls for around 30 baht (US$1). But for our money, the very best rice porridge in Bangkok can be found at Jok Prince, a narrow restaurant set up in Bang Rak, close to Sapan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station. It is a hard restaurant to find for foreign guests due to the lack of English signage, but it just adds to the authenticity and adventure.
This specialist rice porridge restaurant isn’t big on variety, and it’s all the better for it because it means their recipe has been honed to perfection. Your choices here consist of rice soup with finely minced pork balls, with or without offal, and served with poached egg or ‘century egg’ (a Chinese style of preserved egg), with the final addition of a sprinkling of spring onion. Bowls of warm porridge start from 45 baht, which is an absolute bargain for the care that goes into producing a barely perceptible smoky taste that pervades the rice.
What to Order: JOK! With poached egg for first timers (โจ๊กใส่ไข่ลวก), century egg for old hands (โจ๊กใส่ไข่เยี่ยวม้า). Read More...
- Opening Hours: 6:00 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 23:00
- Location: Charoen Krung Road, opposite Robinson Shopping Mall and walk away from Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station for 200 metres
Kuang Heng Kaiton Pratunam
Another of Bangkok’s local restaurants that has garnered fans from across the city, fans of Thai street food come here for soft, steamed chicken served on oily rice, with cucumber and chicken broth soup. It’s not the most adventurous meal but it’s fresh and packed with locals most time of the time – and that alone is proof of its quality.
The chilli sauce served as an accompaniment does add some tingle to the tastebuds, but this is all about fat, plump chickens served fresh, with rice that retains a hint of garlic – the perfect interlude to a shopping spree in Pratunam’s many malls and markets. This is an anytime meal for Thai people in the same way that a sandwich might be seen in the west. Lucky then that Kaiton Pratunam stays open pretty much all day and all night, only closing for a few hours in the early morning.
What to Eat: Steamed chicken on rice (ข้าวมันไก่)
- Opening Hours: 05:00 until 02:00
- Address: Petchburi Soi 30. Close to the intersection with Ratchaprarop.
Kuay Jab Nai Huan
Kuay Jab Nai Huan is one of Yaowarat road all time favourites... This small stall only serves one dish and is packed non-stop from six in the evening to late at night. Kuay Jab is made of large rolled rice noodles with crispy pork belly, sometimes with intestines and most importantly served in a very very peppery clear soup, with prices starting 40 baht. It's so popular you will certainly have to queue patiently, standing in this incredibly busy intersection, or if you are lucky, they might take you further down the lane to set a table up just for you, in the middle of nowhere.
- Location: Intersection of Yaowarat Road and Yaowa Phanit streets
Rot Dee Det
Rot Dee Det (which translates to Tastes So Good) is slap bang in the centre of Siam Square, the fashion centre of Bangkok, and attracts an intriguingly eclectic mix of Bangkok society all drawn by the rows of Thai dishes presented in metal trays, and a noodle station with dark, dense and flavoursome broth. Items start from 40 baht and the white tiles and barren interior design is a clear sign that Rot Dee Det is a local Bangkok restaurant with its focus clearly on the food. Dishes here are served on the small side but come bursting with flavour so we recommend ordering at least a couple of options. Come around lunch and you will struggle to find a seat, as local restaurants are slowly pushed out of Siam Square with Japanese and American franchises taking their place.
What to Order: Browse the cooked selection for anything that takes your fancy, and a bowl of beef noodles.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 20:00
- Location: 420-420/1 Siam Square Soi 7
Boat Noodles in Victory Monument
This is a Bangkok experience not to miss! It’s hot, sweaty and filled with Thai students chomping and slurping their way through bowl after bowl of noodle soup, either with a light broth or a tom yum spicy version. For just 10 baht you get your choice of noodles, with pork or beef, pork balls and crispy wonton. However, one bowl isn’t enough to feed a fly so do as the locals do and order bowls in pairs. Finished bowls are stacked at the end of the table which becomes a source of competition for some (the restaurants have noticed this and offer a free big bottle of Pepsi for every 10 bowls ordered). There isn’t one restaurant in particular, rather a small alley along the canal all sticking to the same philosophy. To find the boat noodles restaurants, you have to exit Victory Monument BTS Station and walk along the overhead walkway until you see the night market. Walk through the market and over a bridge crossing the canal.
What to Order: Bowls of noodles (in pairs) (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ)
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 21:00
- Location: Victory Monument, behind the night market