Photo: Drying out on the streets of Khorat.

Eat and meet

Isan is known for its spicy and delicious food and Khorat lies at the heart of it all. While delicious street food may be found everywhere, an eclectic mix of offerings have popped up in more recent years.

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In terms of street food, local favorites like pad mee Khorat (similar to pad Thai but more savory than sweet), tofu tod (deep fried tofu), and ran fang nom (little sandwiches with sweet fillings) may be found on every corner alongside traditional Thai favorites like khao mun gai (chicken and rice), khao ka moo (slow roasted pork with rice), and kwit tiew nahm (noodle soup). If you're a tried and true Thailand street foodie, you'll love Khorat. If not, we recommend giving it a shot -- vendors are happy to share their offerings with foreigners, even if it requires a great deal of pointing. Believe us, the extra effort is worth it; some of the best food in Khorat is consistently found on the street, typically for 10-50 baht.

If you want optimal street food choices in one place, Wat Boon Night Bazaar at the end of Mahat Thai Rd is a great place to indulge in seemingly endless authentic treats like moo ping (grilled pork skewers) and khanom jeen (noodles with a fishy curry sauce and veggies). Also worth mentioning is the roofed day market on Suranaree Rd (just before Ratchadamnoen Rd and the monument) if heading east. Here you'll find a colorful array of fruit, flowers, and authentic snacks like deep fried bugs and pig's feet curry -- just don't let the severed pig's heads on display scare you off.

For traditional Thai fare in a proper restaurant set up, head down Yommarat Rd. Secluded Rabiang Pa is soothing with its tree-lined courtyard and bubbling fountain. The menu resembles a reference manual in weight and scope and has both pictures and English listings to aid in decision-making. Standouts include the fried fish, an addictive veggie laab salad -- be sure to make your spice-factor known -- and several varieties of tom yam soup that arrive piping hot and stay that way with glowing charcoal briquettes. A short distance away is Rabiang Kaew, which has both in and outdoor seating. This pretty spot is decorated with simple rich woods and lush plants. The delicious food features an array of fresh seafood options -- the grilled shrimp and seafood soups are especially delicious. Large servings make for good sharing. Both of these spots don't get rolling until 17:00.

For an outstanding Thai lunch, head down Assadang Rd away from the monument. Shortly after the Korat Hotel you'll find this family run gem of a spot called Bahn Kun Yai sandwiched between bridal shop and moped dealer. There's no sign in English and the restaurant is little more than a roofed corridor between two buildings, but the khao ka moo and kwit tiew nahm are outstanding, and the owners are exceptionally friendly. If Bahn Kun Yai is closed, head around the corner to Manat Rd. To the right, you'll find House of Music, a self-described steak shop and music zone, though easily half the space is dedicated to computer part sales. Used guitars decorate the walls and offerings include chicken, pork, and beef steaks all served with salad. Grab a fresh fruit smoothie out front to wash it all down. Turn left instead and you'll find Coffee and Cake. In addition to the obvious, this cute cafe has quite an extensive menu and some offerings that are more creative then your standard coffee shop fare. The lemongrass omelette is unusual and delicious, and you can wash it down with a latte frappe with Oreos.

In a different part of town, on Pho Khlang Rd by the train station, Ban Thip Restaurant stands out as a stellar choice for Thai food. With its warm yellow interior and garden setting, Ban Thip has literally dozens of tantalising options. The chicken with cashew nut is drenched in a thick, tasty sauce and the spicy mango salad stands out with shreds of green mango, thinly sliced red onion and a delicious tangy dressing. The owner and staff are a delight and are happy to prepare all of their selections meat-free -- a rarity in these parts.

The only strictly vegetarian option in town is Ming Ter, a small restaurant on Ratchadamnoen Rd just across from the monument. Offerings change daily, but expect some kind of soy meat product and noodles or rice. They also offer veggie versions of som tam and fish kabobs and sell a variety of vegetarian products. The English sign reads only "Vegetarian".

On to morning fare, there's not much by way of western breakfast spots besides those at hotels, but there are plenty of places to get a delicious meal. The morning market, just across from the train station, has all sorts of goodies to fill you up. Try a raisin-coconut waffle washed down with strong Thai iced coffee or opt for a simple omelette with rice. Friends Bar, tucked in front of M in Korat, offers chewy baguette breakfast sandwiches, but doesn't open until noon most days and not at all on Mondays. They also serve traditional pub food and drinks while you catch up with the expats in town. A pool table and small book exchange make this a multi-tasking establishment. VFW in the Siri Hotel also serves up breakfast sandwiches in a diner-style environment. Burgers, grilled cheese and fries are also on the small menu.

Good coffee shops are never far away in Khorat. On the way to the train station on Suranaree Rd you'll find iBerry coffee and ice cream. Perched between two flower shops and across from the peaceful grounds of Wat Ban Drite, iBerry offers a quiet, pleasant setting to enjoy their strong coffee, homemade cookies and ice cream. Continue on past the train station and you'll see another coffee shop, Eat Me Bakery, which has the standard beverage offerings plus a full menu with English translation. Food is simple, but good and there are plenty of options for dessert. The cornflake cookies are delicious and the ice cream is richer than most you'll find in town. They have a second outpost by the Ratchaphat University, on the way to the Dusit Princess Hotel. Over on Jomsurangyard Rd a few blocks to the west past the Chaophaya Inn you'll find Yen-Hey, which serves delicious cakes, sandwiches, pasta and Thai salads along with excellent coffee in a cute café with outdoor seating that's raised above the street.

On to western fare, there are a cluster of fast food joints and chain restaurants near the Chao Phaya Inn on Jomsurangyard Rd, near the intersection with Ratchadamnoen. If looking to really satisfy your western food craving, head a few blocks to the east (Jomsurangyard turns into Mahat Thai Rd), and turn right on to Manat Rd, where you'll find Swiss owned Chez Andy. It's pricey but the generous barbeque buffet and beer garden are well worth it. Chez Andy opens for lunch and dinner, closing down at 23:00 every night. Head to the other side of town if you're hankering for some pizza. The Pizza Shop, also Swiss owned on Suranaree Rd on the way to the train station serves decent pizza along with western favorites like steak and potatoes. It's also a good place to chat with the local expats. For something different, Big Chili on Chakkri Rd serves up burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and terrific margaritas. Prices are on the steep side and food is average but it provides a nice change of pace when you can't bear to look at another plate of noodles.

There are also a few good Japanese restaurants in town. For a large scale, air-con option there's Anego near the Chao Phaya Inn on Jomsurangyard, but locals continually rave about Samurai, near Sansabai and Tokyo Mansion on Suranaree Rd. It's little more than a glorified street stall, but the sushi and udon noodle soup are very tasty.

For drinks and nightlife, a good place to start is Yommarat Rd. With plenty of recommended eating options, it provides a good transition from dinner to drinks. Grab an after dinner drink at Korat Buri -- let their full bar and live music get your evening underway. After a few, head next door to Blue Saloon and be transported back in time as cover bands play favourites from the '60s and '70s. Different bands play every week so be sure to check the schedule outside. Many more bars are further down the road -- walk a bit and you're sure to find something that tickles your fancy. On the other side of town, a stroll down Yho Tha Rd. presents a quieter vibe with bars dotting the street at regular intervals. The Sport Bar is a classy little spot for a more subdued lounge style atmosphere and excellent cocktails. If you're really looking to let loose, head to busy Jomsurangyard Rd. The bar at Chao Phaya Inn is a good place to catch up on your favorite football/soccer teams on their massive projection screen while enjoying a full bar on their lively open air patio. From there go across the street to Ginza Entertainment, Khorat's biggest nightclub featuring karaoke, live music and a DJ.

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