Free Bird Cafe

Great veggie fare for a good cause

What we say: 4 stars

If you want to try eating something a bit different in Chiang Mai, we strongly recommend Free Bird Cafe, a vegetarian Shan food restaurant, where there really are no meat or fish options, and profits go to a good cause as well.

Free Bird Cafe - dreadlocks not compulsory

Free Bird Cafe. Dreadlocks not compulsory.

Free Bird Cafe does actually offer Thai, Burmese and Western options as well as Shan, though since the cooks are Shan that’s their specialty area. Having sampled all four of their cuisine offerings, we can vouch that the Shan chefs are adept in all areas.

A wide range of Burmese and Shan salads are on offer, all huge servings at a more than reasonable 65 baht per dish. One option we particularly liked was the choice of three different salad samplers for 100 baht, though you do need to be hungry.

Burmese tea-leaf salad, Shan style green papaya salad and we can't remember the other one!

Burmese tea-leaf salad, Shan-style green papaya salad and… something else.

Also particularly recommended was the delicious, creamy, Shan-style pumpkin, ginger and peanut curry, which next time we reckon would go very well with the unusual fried rice with potatoes, another Shan dish that sounds odd but works very well.

Kind of a fried rice and potato-ish thingy - excellent whatever it was!

Kind of a fried rice and potato-ish thingy — excellent!

Thai-wise they offer veggie versions of the Thai classics, including pad Thai, green curry and red curry. For a European dish we sampled their very good and very large hummus. (Couscous was dish of the day but we were unfortunately well sated by then.) There’s more to Free Bird than food, with the coffees, juices and bakery section well worth a visit if you’re not feeling particularly hungry, plus there’s also a small secondhand book and clothes section. You’ll also find tons of mostly Burma related info and there’s free WiFi, so you can check your mail while sipping their excellent local coffee.

A popular selection is the tasty pumpkin, ginger and peanut curry

A popular selection is the tasty pumpkin, ginger and peanut curry.

Indeed there’s much more to Free Bird than food and the coffee shop, since profits from the cafe go to help fund the Thai Freedom House, a language and arts learning centre for Shan and other refugees from Burma, so not only are you eating great food, you’re also helping a good cause.

Free Bird’s new location is on the north side of the moat opposite the start of Ratpakinai Road (see our Chiang Mai map here.) Open 09:00-17:00, Tuesday to Sunday.

Contact details
Opposite the start of Ratpakinai Rd on the north side of the moat, Chiang Mai
Open: Open 09:00-17:00, Tue-Sun
About the author
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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Free Bird Cafe
Opposite the start of Ratpakinai Rd on the north side of the moat, Chiang Mai

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