*Note : These are all sit-down restaurants and on an island at that, which inflates the prices of the dishes. Some of these dishes on the mainland can be as much as half of the prices listed here. That being said, compared to Western costs, these are all still a bargain. Also, none of these restaurants compensated us in any way for writing about them. These are truly our favorites.*
Though we left Koh Lanta over a week ago, we haven’t stopped thinking about it and are already planning a return trip in the near future. Two weeks just wasn’t enough. The island is absolutely beautiful and the beaches are some of the nicest we’ve ever been on, especially during April which is the beginning of the low season and the beaches are pretty empty. One day on Phra Ae ( long beach ) we had a stretch of about 200 feet in both directions all to ourself. It felt like our own private beach! If you like hiking, the Koh Lanta National Park has plenty of trails to explore, a nice beachfront to relax on, and a lighthouse at the top of a hill which makes for a great viewpoint. Our favorite part of the island though, and it’s usually our favorite part of anywhere we go, was the food. Overall we got pretty lucky with the food we ate, thanks in large part to recommendations by our Airbnb host Maayan and Tripadvisor. I’d like to go over some of our favorite spots so you can check them out when you go to Koh Lanta!
We spent the first of our two weeks in Old Town, which is in the southeastern section of the island and away from much of the tourist crowd. The neighborhood is a mix of Thai Muslim Fisherman ( Krabi Province as a whole is largely Muslim ), Thai Chinese, some expats, and a few tourists. Every morning we awoke to the Call to Prayer playing over the loudspeakers on the road, which in a way was surprisingly soothing. What the neighborhood lacked in beaches and tourist attractions it made up for in character and great places to eat. As soon as we arrived at our Airbnb (Muchu House on the Sea, highly recommended!!) Maayan gave us a rundown of all of the best places nearby, which luckily were all within walking distance to our new home. I could go on and on about a dozen or so that we thought were excellent, but to keep the post short we chose just two from this neighborhood: Sandy’s at Oldtown and Family BBQ.
Sandy’s at Oldtown
Sandy’s was one of those places you fall in love with one thing, and even though you know everything else on the menu will be delicious, you just keep going back to that one dish. It’s a little off the beaten path, even for Old Town which is off the beaten path in itself, but I promise you it will be worth it. Its a cozy little spot that holds maybe 15 people, and if you come during high tide the water will be directly underneath you and the views of the Andaman Sea are truly breathtaking. There are some big comfy chairs and a hammock or two if you want to just sit back with a coffee and a book and take in the scenery, which we did on multiple occasions. The menu is small, consisting of a variety of homemade iced teas ( my personal favorites being the strawberry basil or the mango ginger), coffees, and ice creams. As far as food goes there are usually just two or three things on the menu, which change daily based on what is available at the market that morning.
I can’t remember how many times we ended up at Sandy’s, but it was enough that she had to ask if we were getting bored with her food, which we quickly told her “never!”. We did end up trying multiple things, like Chicken Tikka with naan and a beef and vegetables dish in a puff pastry, but we kept going back to one of our favorite Thai dishes: Khao Soi Gai. Khao Soi Gai is a northern Thai dish consisting of a coconut curry soup with a braised chicken thigh resting in the middle, with boiled egg noodles on the bottom and fried egg noodles on top, giving it both a soft and crunchy texture. On the side it comes with a lime wedge, raw red onion, pickled mustard greens, and a chili oil for you to add in as you go. Even on a blistering hot day with temperatures over 100 degrees, all I wanted to do was eat more Khao Soi Gai.
Between the amazing food, the beautiful views, and the charming personality of Sandy herself, it’s a miracle we ended up eating anywhere else. Even when we were staying on the other side of the island we made the trip back to Old Town a couple times just to get our fix. Expect to pay 35-70 baht ($1-2) for drinks and between 70-140 baht ($2-4) for food items. Ice cold water is free, which is great because most places you have to pay for it. Had she been open all day, we may not have ever gone anywhere else, but she is closed on Mondays and her hours are 9-5 the rest of the week so make sure to get there early!
You can’t even find this place on Tripadvisor, which makes me feel like I really am letting the world in on a secret gem. This was one of the places recommended by Maayan, and it did not disappoint. Luckily it was just a few houses down from where we were staying, so whenever we had a craving for fish we would just walk right over. Family BBQ is just a few months old, and was started by some of the local fishermen in the neighborhood. They have traditional Thai dishes such as Pra Ka Prow ( stir fried chicken with basil) and Tom Yum Soup, but they’re speciality is, no surprise, the fish. Like Sandy’s, the menu is constantly rotating, depending on what they caught that morning. While we were there the catch of the day was more often than not marlin served with steamed rice, a fish which I had never had before. The first time we went we ordered the marlin and a more traditional dish, just in case we didn’t like it. Both dishes blew us away in terms of flavor and value, and from then on we were hooked. We ended up coming for dinner a few times, and every time it exceeded our expectations. The staff was so friendly and always brought out some cut up pineapple after we finished eating to cap off the meal.
Expect to pay between $2-4 for a Thai dish and between $4-6 for a fish dish. The marlin dish was about $5.50 and while that may seem expensive for Thailand, the portion was very good and you pay a premium on the islands. The same dish back home in Boston would cost about $20-30+ at a restaurant, so you’re still getting a bargain. If you’re not looking to eat in they also sell fresh fish, but with the prices so cheap you’re better off just having the work done for you and enjoy their cooking. Family BBQ is open from about noon – 10 ish. Like most restaurants in the area, they don’t have set open-close times, so if its slow they may close early. I suggest going early to insure you get to go!
We spent our second week on the western side of the island, closer to the beaches and a little more in the thick of things than Old Town. While we missed Old Town, our new spot was right across the street from Khlong Nin beach, which totally beat taking a 20 minute drive every time we wanted to swim. We could walk over, hang for an hour, and just walk right back if we felt like it. The prices for accomadation were also very similar to what we paid in Old Town, so you weren’t paying a premium for being closer. Anyway, i’m getting off track. I’m here to talk about food!
Life is full of happy accidents, at least it is for Breada and myself. Some of our best memories are from happy accidents: the fact that we met at all was a happy accident, our trip to Lisbon last year was a happy accident, Beachside Restaurant was yet another happy accident.
Originally, after scouring TripAdvisor for a place to eat in our new neighborhood, I had settled on a spot with good reviews and was touted as cheap by a few reviewers. I can’t even tell you the name of the place because we never made it there. When we pulled up on our motorbike we noticed it was closed, which kinda sucked because I had no back up plan and our phones didn’t have any service. After taking in our surroundings, we noticed a gentlemen at the restaurant next door working a bbq pit smiling our way. We walked over, took a glance at the menu and decided “screw it we’re hungry” and walked in. Like many of the restaurants along the beaches, there was seating directly on the beach, which we opted for. It was dark by then and each table was lit by candlelight, which gave it a little romantic ambiance.
Their specialty was the bbq, which is only offered at night so if that’s what you’re looking to get don’t come before 6pm or so. Some of the bbq dishes included chicken kebab, chicken breast,duck breast,fish, pork ribs, and a few others I can’t remember at the moment. They all come with a baked potato loaded with butter and fresh garlic and a side of pepper sauce. The first night we got the kebab and the chicken breast, and both were outstanding. The kebab had bell pepper, onion, and pineapple along with the chicken and was only 100 baht ($2.86) and the chicken breast just 125 baht ($3.58). I also had the duck which was delicious, but at 200 baht ($5.71) it was kind of a splurge for me so I stuck with the kebabs after that.
Because we came here about 7 or 8 times we had plenty of time to try some of the other dishes on the menu, including their Tom Yum, Pad Thai, chicken and chilies, chicken curry, chicken and basil, and likely a few more I’m not remembering. All of them were outstanding, and the Thai dishes were all well priced between 80-150 baht ($2.29-4.29) and the portions were more than generous.
One thing that really stuck out to me about Beachside was their service. In my experience, good service in Thailand isn’t something you should expect, but the service as Beachside was phenomenal. The waiter (the same guy almost every night), would repeat back the order every time to make sure it was correct. This might not seem like much, but when the language barrier is a large as it is, things can go wrong very easily, and often they do. Just repeating it back can save a lot of time and aggravation. Also, there was always someone nearby if you needed another beer or wanted to grab the check (“Check bin” in Thai!). Overall in the one month we spent in Thailand, Beachside was head and shoulders better than everyone in terms of service quality and was a large part of why we kept coming back. Whether you want some good ol’ fashioned grilled bbq or traditional Thai, this is the place. Beachside opens around noon and closes around 10, but like I said they only do the bbq at night so plan ahead if that’s what you want.
Patty’s Secret Garden (Long Beach)
Originally we hadn’t planned on going to Patty’s Secret Garden, despite great reviews across the board on Tripadvisor. It wasn’t until two friends that we’re also staying on the same complex as us in Old Town recommended it while they were staying on the guesthouse that shares the same name and property. Located on Phra Ae (Long Beach), Patty’s specialty were the burgers, and i’m always game for a good burger especially after eating copious amounts of Thai food.
When we got there the place was packed, but considering it’s the #9 place on TripAdvisor i’m not surprised. We each got the bacon and cheese burger which was made with 100% Australian beef, black bomber cheddar cheese imported from the UK, and crispy bacon ( the real kind, unlike some of the stuff that gets pawned off for bacon around here). They also came with both regular and sweet potato fries and a side salad. At 250 baht ($7.15) it was expensive for a shoestring budget, but when you factor in the quality of the ingredients and the portion size it was worth every penny. I could eat that burger every day and not get tired of it, but i’d be going broke pretty quick so I need to use places like that as a treat and not an everyday meal.
While they’re known for their burgers they also had a wide selection of Thai dishes as well as other western meals. I can’t attest to the others, but everything I saw come out of the kitchen looked delicious and judging by the glowing reviews online, it all was. The only other thing we got was an order of Thai chicken wings over a bed of fried shallots, which were amazing. They were nice and small, unlike the massive unnatural looking wings you find in some other restaurants. They also came out really crispy, which is key to a good wing in my opinion. I’m kind of a nut and enjoy nibbling on the smaller bones in the wing, and when they’re real crispy they taste so much better. The wings came with a Thai chili sauce that had a nice kick to it as well, and I swear I could drink this stuff. If meat isn’t your thing they also have vegan and vegetarian options as well as a wide range of beers, wines, and cocktails! This is the perfect place for a group who can’t decide between Thai and Western. Just get both!
Greek Taverna (Khlong Dao)
You’re probably thinking “Greek food in Thailand, how good can it possibly be?” I’ll answer that for you: pretty damn good! Others must agree with me too as it’s the #10 restaurant on Tripadvisor, and deservingly so. The owner was a nice gentlemen from Crete, who after visiting Koh Lanta fell in love with the island and decided to move and start up his own restaurant. Breada and I spent two weeks in Greece a few years ago, so I had some authentic Greek food to compare it to. Sitting at this beachfront restaurant eating, I could have just as easily been back on Mykonos or Santorini and not Koh Lanta. We ended up coming here twice in a matter of days and both times we each got the chicken souvlaki, which is identical to a gyro but with cubed grilled meat and not meat off a vertical rotisserie. They were 150 baht each ($4.30), which was pricier than our normal street food budget of $1.50-2 a meal but they were MASSIVE. We could have easily split one if we wanted to, but we like to eat and took on the challenge of each polishing one off on our own. I managed to finish mine in one sitting both times, but Breada had to take leftovers, which made our fridge and subsequently our room smell like a gyro, but i’m not complaining! The tzatziki was probably my favorite part of the whole thing. It was so fresh and delicious, and after making tzatziki before I know how much of a pain in the ass it is to make so I can really appreciate when someone makes it from scratch. The pita was also delicious and after not eating much bread while in Thailand it was nice to have some carbs. Greek Taverna is open from noon-10, but again like many restaurants they may close early if it’s slow so don’t push it and try going right before they close!
There are hundreds of restaurants on Koh Lanta, especially during high season, and it’s a shame we didn’t get to try them all. People will argue there are better restaurants on the island, and i’m sure there are, but these were our favorites and all of them are worth sharing.There were a few that we couldn’t make it to, but it just gives us another reason to return and we will soon. Hopefully then we can expand the post and give you a little more insight. I hope you’re not too hungry after reading this, but if you are and are on Koh Lanta you should absolutely check some of these out! What are some of your favorite restaurants on Koh Lanta? and if you haven’t been, which of these sounded best to you?
Honorable Mentions :
Old Town – Beautiful Restaurant ( and a beautiful view! )
Old Town – Sunee’s Place
Khlong Nin – Monkey Bizness Cafe