The Khao Lak area boasts one of the most eclectic mixes of food in southern Thailand, with some excellent fine dining and ethnic choices, including a particularly large number of German, Indian and Italian restaurants. If looking for authentic Thai food, however, it's tough to find the real deal in Khao Lak, and overall food prices are very high for mainland Thailand, an extension of the inflated prices of Phuket.
Due to it being largely a tourist area, finding authentic Thai food can be tough in Khao Lak. A good place to start is the night market near the 7-eleven and taxi stand at the entrance to the road leading to Bang Niang beach. While even here the majority of stalls mainly sell souvenirs and beach wear to tourists, there are a number of vendors offering authentic Thai treats like moo ping (grilled pork skewers) with sticky rice, flaky and sweet roti with or without bananas, and mango with coconut sticky rice. Just up the road there's another market that sets up behind the bus station and caters more to locals, so this is a good place to seek spicy southern curries and snap that photo of bright red Asian chilies in a real Thai market.
If looking for seafood barbeque, you can't go wrong with either Sala restaurant or Khao Lak Seafood, which are near one another on Phet Kasem Rd in Bang Thong. They're pricey but offer generous portions of consistently fresh seafood with Thai dipping sauces, and both have full bars.
Over in Bang Niang, we had a great experience at the Beach Restaurant and Bar, which is located right on the beach near Chong Fah Resort. The grilled jumbo shrimp, steamed fish, chicken with cashews, and tom yum soup were all perfectly prepared, generously portioned, and very flavourful. The sunset views and quality of food make the Beach worth it for the semi expensive prices.
If you're looking for a good Thai lunch spot, we recommend Sangthawn Restaurant on the main road between Bang Niang and Khuk Khak beaches. They whipped us up a spicy and tasty plate of chicken krapow with Thai style fried egg, and their bright home made cakes with tropical fruits look enticing as well.
Back in Bang Thong, Ten Star Coffee and Food on Phet Kasem Rd became our go to stop both for Thai food and coffee. Their tom yum was missing something, but the curries and stir-fries we tried were flavourful, although they could have gone a little further on the spice for our taste. Still, they also offer some decent sandwiches and pasta dishes, great coffee, are open all day until 23:00, have a fun and lively atmosphere with a full bar, and a consistently friendly young staff.
Hole in the wall curry and noodle shops, which are so common practically everywhere else in Thailand, are rare in Khao Lak, but there is one good traditional noodle stand with an English menu that's popular with both locals and tourists right across the street from Khao Lak Seafood in Bang Thong.
Moving on to international fare, Khao Lak's popularity amongst Germans is evidenced by a number of solid German restaurants and bakeries. Tiffy's to the north of Bang Thong along Phet Kasem Rd offers filling portions of fried spaetzle and filet of beef goulash. They're open all day from 8:00 to 23:00 and if you need a hangover cure, try the "gutbuster" breakfast for 220B, which is certain to satisfy with its mixture of house baked beans, fried potatoes, German sausage, eggs and pumpernickel toast with butter and jam. Tiffy's also serves up perhaps the best sandwiches in Khao Lak and the owners are exceptionally kind and friendly. For a more German café style atmosphere, check out Bread and More German Bakery over in Bang Niang, which serves good sandwiches, German style breads and pastries, and some excellent coffee.
Another strong suit of Khao Lak's is Italian cuisine. Although practically every Thai-international restaurant and resort seems to have pizza and pasta on their menus, we found a couple stand out Italian spots, although they are on the pricey side. First in Bang Thong on Phet Kasem Rd, the simply named Pizzeria serves delectable brick oven pie with thin and flaky crust along with a host of salads, pasta and fine wines. Many of their pastas are home made and they allow you to mix and match them with a range of delicious home made sauces. Over in Bang Niang, Pinocchio Restaurant has brick oven pizza that's equally tasty but with a thicker, more filling crust. Pinocchio also has a solid wine list along with equally delicious pastas, salads, and tiramisu.
Surprisingly, Khao Lak also has at least five Indian restaurants. We tried both Kohinoor at the south side of Phet Kasem in Bang Thong and Taj Mahal on the road leading to Bang Niang beach, and both were good but not great, with Taj Mahal slightly better due mainly to larger portions and a better atmosphere. Each serve a standard selection of south Indian style food, including tandoori grilled items and specialty breads. While perhaps a little overpriced, either place will satisfy your craving for curry and nan, but make sure to be very clear if you want it spicy.
For something different, La Dolce Vitta Argentinian Grill on the south side of Phet Kasem in Bang Thong is an expensive, air-con white table cloth joint that looks promising for something completely different.
Moving on to the sweeter side of things, Kinnaree Bakery in the centre of Bang Thong is a good European style café that's the perfect place to relax with an espresso and perhaps a French custard or slice of German chocolate cake. Across the street, just north of McDonalds, Stemper Café is one of the better spots to satisfy your sweet tooth with their home baked cookies, hazelnut or lemon sour cream cake, or to fill up on sandwiches made with croissants or fresh baked bread. If looking for something closer to the beach, Seaview Resort has a café that serves professionally made cakes and pastries.
As for nightlife, Khao Lak isn't the wild place that Phuket's Patong or Kata beaches are, but we think that's a good thing, especially considering there are still some lively bars for letting loose in Bang Thong. For a good "one stop" food and drinks spot, Fishermen Bar and Restaurant on Phet Kasem in Bang Thong has a lively atmosphere, good German, Thai and international food, a full bar, and some flatscreens that make it the place for catching up with your favourite football squad.
For something more upscale with a decidedly romantic setting, Diamond Bar in the middle of Bang Thong has a smart but pricey Thai fusion food menu along with solid cocktails and wine, and a more urban style atmosphere with live music most nights.
To the north of Bang Thong the hip little open air Le Café is probably the best place in Khao Lak for a real mojito or martini, and although small, the café is a great place to while away a low key evening with friends. If you want to let it all hang out late night, we suggest hitting the strip of small, lively bars down a side street off Phet Kasem just across the street from the McDonalds.
North of Bang Thong the nightlife scene is decidedly tame, but some of the better beach bars are found up this way. Our favourite is Lek Bar, located on Khuk Khak beach in between Anamandia and Orchid resorts. If arriving by road at high tide you'll have to ring a bell for pick up by boat to cross a small stream, or, if you want to swim, you can rest assured that there are "no crocodiles" since that is clearly written on a sign. Lek Bar has a reggae — beach bum atmosphere, a full bar and small Thai food menu along with a laid back staff who will probably become your friend within a matter of minutes. If further north, you can't go wrong with the equally chilled out beach bar at White Sands resort.