The Best Places to Go for Lunch in Bangkok

Bangkok does come into its own after the heat subsides and the lights go down, but it also has some fabulous places to have a bite to eat for lunch. The range of choices is incredibly wide here,  from the cheapest street corner meals from vendor stalls, to some great bargains at some of the city's most posh eateries. If you favor healthy meals, head to Dressed, where you can build your own salads and wraps, or go stock up on gourmet deli fixings from the local branch of New York's Dean and Deluca. While some of Bangkok's most elegant dining spots will really break the pocketbook come dinner, one can find set lunches at these same spots without needing to whip out the credit card. The city's most elegant French restaurant, Le Normandie, is a prime example of this, but set deals can also be found at Nahm, voted one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for several years running now. For Japanese fans, those who can never get a table at dinner at popular Isao will actually have a shot at lunch, along with a 'lunchtime specials' menu. For those on a budget, some of the best hole in the walls are available for lunch, spots like Nai Mong Hoi Tod and its delicious seafood omelets, or perhaps some Thai Muslim chicken biryani at Aisa Rot Dee or fried chicken at Soi Polo. The list is endless and hopefully this guide will steer you in the right direction.


Soi Polo Fried Chicken

Truth is you probably could find equally as good fried chicken in many other spots in Bangkok, but Soi Polo has been famous for so long, why bother traipsing through the heat looking for something else? The chicken here really does put the Colonel to shame, the som tam papaya salads are tasty, and there is even a nam tok gai tawt spicy chicken salad to go with your chicken. It's all Formica tables and metal stools, but nobody comes here for the decor. The restaurant is fairly deserted at night, due to being in an embassy and office building area where everyone heads home after work, but the lunch scene here is an amazing experience, although we warn you to avoid the masses and come in before 12 or after 1.

After years in cosmopolitan Bangkok without edible bagels, the real deal has finally arrived. An American and Thai who missed chewy New York bagels opened up this centrally located eatery and now have a legion of faithful followers. As co-owner Eric Seldin stated, "for the longest time we had to do with bagels in Bangkok that were essentially just round pieces of bread." These days, you can treat yourself to a Lox, Stock, and Bagel, a tuna melt or a Reuben, and plenty of good coffee and desserts to boot. Throw in the free wifi, and you could spend a few hours or more here.

Aisa Rot Dee is a hard to find gem despite being just steps from touristy Khao San Road, and is the perfect example of good Thai street food, and an excellent choice for lunch if you are in the neighborhood. The fare here is almost all Thai Muslim, with the standout being khao mok gai, known to some as chicken biryani. and Aisa's also does the biryani with beef. All portions are served with a wonderful green minty/vinegary sauce that just adds to the biryani spices already in the dish. Also on the menu is kuay tiaow gaeng, which is a hearty bowl of thick curry and noodles. English really isn't spoken in here, but there are picture signs and the food is displayed.


The only Thai restaurant to be included in prestigious Restaurant Magazine's Top 50 Restaurants in the World, Nahm lives up to its billing by serving some of the best food one can find in Bangkok. However, some folks just aren't ready to fork out for a fancy dinner, which is all the more reason to take advantage of the fact that Nahm is now open for lunch. You can try the set menu which features 3 mains and 3 canapes along with dessert for only 1600 baht++. The kanom jeen rice noodles served with a choice of curries are fabulous, and the blue swimmer crab and pickled garlic on rice cakes is divine. Lunch is served from 12-2.

If you like oysters this little hole in the wall serves up some of the best street fare to be found anywhere in Bangkok. Winner of the prestigious Shell Shuan Shim star award, the lady running this joint whips up divine plates of fried oyster or mussel crepes that have fans of the small shop lining up to get their fix. You have a choice here of ordering regular or super crispy, and the super crispy oyster plates seem to be the winner in popularity. There are only mussels and oysters made into crepe/omelets here, so don't expect anything else, and English is not spoken, although there is now an English menu to help deal with all the foreign foodies who make the pilgrimage here. The oysters are served up fresh off a hot griddle and a dipping sauce made of sweet chilies is served up alongside each portion.

There are now several branches throughout Bangkok of this original New York gourmet delicatessen, coffee shop, and upmarket grocery featuring premium ingredients, fine wines, and all you could ask for from a Western gastronomy outlet. The snazziest new outlet is in the Mahanakhon Cube Building, which sits at the foot of Bangkok's tallest building, the Mahanakhon Tower. After gaping up at the towering skyscraper, come in and settle down here for sandwiches and smoothies, or pick up some of the nuts or chocolates they sell in the shop as gifts, or to nibble on the long flight home. The prices aren't cheap here, but you are paying for high end ingredients in a very high rent neighborhood.

Pala is a much welcome addition to Bangkok's pizza scene and a great spot to have lunch in. While most places here serve the standard Neopolitan Italian thin crust pizza, Pala rises its dough extra long and the result is thick, chewy, and incredibly tasty crust. Of course its not just the crust that makes a pizza, and Pala excels here too, giving all sorts of options utilizing fresh mozzarella, Tuscan ham, olives, zucchini, and much more. Pasta is also on the menu, from carbonara to lasagne to gnocci with pumpkin and blue cheese, each one cooked to perfection. Also unique to Pala is the fact that they cook their pizza by the meter (1/2 a meter gets you eight slices of pizza). You can take out and get delivery, but the views out of the large glass windows are pretty happening, with all of Bangkok in full rush in front of you, as the busy eatery sits right in front of the MRT Subway and BTS Skytrain hub at Asok, and just steps from the Terminal 21 shopping mall.

Dressed is an American salad cafe franchise now firmly entrenched in the Bangkok healthy eating scene. There are five branches to choose from in downtown Bangkok, with this location in the Mercury Ville mall accessed directly from the Chidlom skytrain station being the most central and convenient. The focus here is on artisanal sandwiches, like mango chutney with turkey or chili lime chicken panini, and plenty of other mouthwatering creations. The other big draw here are the salads, and the restaurant aims to please the health conscious crowd by letting diners create their own wraps, sandwiches, and salads, thus controlling their caloric intake. You can go for a Detox Antioxidant, which includes spinach, roast beets, and a blueberry pomegranate vinaigrette, or else make your own, selecting from a massive array of superfoods, proteins, and vegetables. The chic menu also includes a large selection of healthy smoothies, soups, and crepes and cakes to indulge in for dessert after you've convinced yourself with your healthy mains.

This classy French restaurant on the top floor of The Oriental Hotel is a Bangkok institution. Fois gras and roasted Sisteron rack of lamb are just some of the menu highlights prepared by the visiting French master chefs in residence here, all taken in amidst elegance with views of the Chao Phraya River to boot. While dinner here is an absolute bank breaker, the set lunch provides a way for paupers to dine like princes and indulge in Bangkok's most sophisticated restaurant. An appetizer, entree, and dessert set menu goes for the steal of 1500 baht and introduces you to some world class cuisine.

Photo courtesy of Isao Bangkok

While this small eatery just off of Sukhumvit is always packed with discerning diners coming to try out creations that just aren't available elsewhere in Bangkok, so much that it is next to impossible to get a seat, lunch offers better prospects, and Isao is well worth a visit. The owner at Isao studied under the chef at Green Tea in Chicago, and obviously brought back some creative expertise. Try out some of the signature fusion specialties here such as the Volcano, a baked scallop in cream sauce served in its shell resembling orange molten lava, spicy and taste tingling. Or how about the Jackie, a caterpillar shaped sushi roll with egg, boiled shrimp, roe, and tempura, or the Chicago Spicy Crazy, which features salmon, tuna, white fish and vegetables.


Meet Dave Stamboulis

Dave Stamboulis is a travel writer/photographer based in Bangkok. Born in Athens, Greece and growing up in the U.S., Dave first discovered Bangkok while on a 45,000-kilometer bicycle trip and...  More About Dave