Dining high and low in Southeast Asia: Thailand

Explore Thailand through memorable meals for any budget.

Making memories with food is oftentimes the best part of traveling to different countries. Food opens up the doors to unfamiliar cultures and communicates without words, sharing traditions and family recipes that you otherwise wouldn’t be privy to.

The real secret is to dine high and low, mixing cheap eats with fine dining to really round out the entire experience of a country. No one will judge you if that sandwich from a food stall excites you more than the supposedly amazing 7-course dinner with dozens of rave reviews. My best food memory of Thailand was the pad thai that cost less than $1 from a street cart which I ate late in the evening at a plastic table on a busy sidewalk in Bangkok. That experience shaped a much more vivid representation of the country than any of the meals I had in a “proper” sit-down restaurant.

The following is a collection places in Bangkok and beyond to fit every budget and culinary experience, whether you want to dive deep into the mecca of street food or discover what some of the top chefs are concocting for their next tasting menu. Some of the places are “insider” tips that you may not easily find in travel guides, while others have been sourced through experts. What they all have in common, though, is the ability to leave an impression on your tastebuds.

Note: On April 18, 2017, it was announced that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has banned street food stalls from the city and vendors have been ordered to shut down by the end of the year. Popular places like Yaowarat and Khao San Road will likely be hit sooner rather than later so best start planning the Bangkok leg of your Southeast Asia food crawl ASAP!


If you’re in the mood for dinner and a show, Vientiane Kitchen is a great middle-of-the-road option. With a Northeastern food menu and Thai dance and music performances, you can get the whole experience here. One of the main draws is that it’s not overly expensive, making it a completely reasonable option for those who have kids or aren’t sure if a dinner show is for them. If you have to duck out early, you won’t feel like you’ve wasted money.

Sra Bua was conceptualized by Henrik Yde Andersen whose restaurant in Copenhagen, Kiin Kiin, has the special distinction of being the only Thai restaurant in the world with a Michelin star. The menu here features a modern interpretation of Thai cuisine and you can opt for a tasting menu or create your own “journey” with dishes such as Hokkaido Scallop, tamarind and lemongrass and pan-fried foie gras, ginger and plum wine. The atmosphere is moody and sophisticated, with an interior that’s full of dark woods, gold, purple accents, and even a lotus pond.

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