From burgers and pizza to a dizzying array of Thai-style seafood, Ban Phe and nearby beach towns do not disappoint on the food front.
Dried squid and fish are sold alongside souvenirs at the market next to Nuan Thip Pier, but those looking to really get a feel for the area’s bountiful seafood should walk west from the piers and keep going straight onto narrow Sukhaphiban Soi 2/8 after passing under a gate. Often bursting out of attractive old wood houses, the many shops display all sorts of whole grilled fishes along with steamed crabs, fresh oysters, grilled squid, horseshoe crabs and enough still-flapping sea creatures to fill an aquarium. There’s no place to eat on site but you could always grab some grilled prawns to go.
For a sit-down seafood meal, Talay Rayong is a popular sea-view eatery serving several dozen seafood dishes at reasonable prices for lunch and dinner, with a picture menu that makes choosing easy. Neighbouring Baan Rabeang Mai has a more upscale setting with a dining terrace that’s closer to the water and farther from the road. You’ll find both just west of Seree Pier, across the coastal road from Mac Garden. For loads more seafood, make your way to Suan Son Beach and Laem Mae Phim Beach.
Clusters of cheap Thai eateries are found at Nuan Thip Pier and Phe Pier to satiate travellers with a plate of pad Thai or krapao gai (chicken stir-fried with garlic, chillies and holy basil) before catching a boat or bus. Open for lunch only, Tiew Ban Phe does Northern Thai khao soi (curry chicken soup with egg-wheat noodles) along with a few other types of noodle soup at low prices. You’ll also find several coffee shops with WiFi in the vicinity of the piers.
A veritable magnet for foreign travellers and expats, Christie’s is a Ban Phe institution located next to 7-eleven and across from Phe Pier. Grab a table or barstool and let the friendly staff serve you an English breakfast, fish and chips, burger, T-bone steak, cheesy garlic bread or pizza made in an oven set up on the footpath. The kitchen does a solid job on the Western stodge in the 100 to 300 baht range, served with fresh coffee, ice-cold beer, wine or cocktails. Try a fruity mai Thai or the “Rayong Rumble” and watch one of the soccer games that are constantly shown on a pair of LCD TVs. After dark you might head next door to the attached billiards hall. Christie’s opens early and stays open late — and don’t be surprised if you end up hanging around late night with some new friends.
Further west along the coastal road, near Sri Ban Phe Pier, Swedish-owned O’Leary’s serves gourmet Western food in a comfortable air-con restaurant with an attached deli and wine shop that’s open from 11:00 to 22:00. Prices are higher than at Christie’s — more than 200 baht for a specialty burger and 495 baht for filet mignon — but the thoughtfully presented food tastes great and portions are large. Specials included roast beef with cream sauce and salmon with shellfish toast when we stopped in on a Sunday, though you can’t go wrong with the house-made Swedish meatballs. O’Leary’s also offers a strong wine selection. Our only question is: Do they really need to play Weird Al Yankovic albums during dinner hours?
For something sweet, stop by the Inner Cake at its easy-to-find location just west of the Diamond Phe Hotel. If you’re interested in Chinese-Thai desserts, or you can’t be bothered to walk further than 20 feet from Christie’s, a popular dessert stall sets up nightly in front of 7-eleven to dish out gingko seeds, grass jelly and other unusual bits bobbing in warm or icy broths of sugar syrup, coconut milk and ginger.