Central Lampang’s not over-endowed with restaurants or bars, and you can’t help but feel that more could be made of the pleasant riverside area in this respect. As of mid-2015 there seemed to be more closed down places than open ones.
Popular Riverside, run by the same folks who brought you Riverside Guest House, is an old and somewhat ramshackle wooden structure right on the river (go figure). One of your best bar and restaurant options, it offers various seating areas on different levels and several terraces linked by walkways, corridors and staircases. It is very popular with locals and Lampang’s handful of expats and tourists, and cooks up a wide variety of Thai and Western dishes. The bar is well stocked and there's even a cocktail menu. The simple noodles, fried rice or kap khao dishes are all suitable for a quick lunch, while steaks and fried chicken plus some decent pizzas will also fill you up. It might not be the cheapest establishment in town but prices are pretty standard for a mid-range spot with a great view. Count on around 50 baht for a simple one-plate lunch or around 300 baht for a pizza. The staff are okay, with a smattering of English spoken, but they are prone to being a bit disinterested. Regular live music is played at the weekends. The Riverside's pizza oven operates on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 18:30 until 22:00 (but this may well vary).
Open all day, it’s also not a bad spot for morning coffee or afternoon tea since their bakery is just about the best we found in town.
Next door to Riverside is the Corkscrew Wine Bar and Coffee Shop, with another verandah overlooking the river. Wine is always seriously overpriced (overtaxed) in Thailand but if you want to splash out the wooden terrace is a good spot to sit and they will even order a pizza from next door to soak up your vino if you ask. Otherwise the coffee is good and cheap though service –- as often in provincial Lampang –- was seriously dopey.
A third good option seeming to cater to Lampang women-who-lunch, plus of course any foreigners wandering about, is Talat Kao’s chic looking Prink Cafe. Set in a great old wooden building by the river, they specialise in ice creams, smoothies, teas and coffees as well as a wide-ranging menu that covers everything from spaghetti and pizzas through to Thai classics including numerous interesting variations on simple fried rice for 50 to 60 baht a plate. There's no river view but a nicely decorated air-con room and a couple of tables on the street instead -- and service is a lot more on the ball here. They also have a few rooms for rent at 650 baht.
Last but by no means least in our centrally located restaurant section is the wonderful Aroy One Baht on the corner of Thipchang and Suan Dok. It is open from 16:00 until midnight and is packed pretty much all evening. It's an old wooden house serving seriously cheap and seriously good Thai food with lightening quick service from friendly staff. This is worth a look even if only stopping by for a few appetisers before heading out for the evening. We got a large beer and plate of prawn tempura for just 100 baht, while a whole fried fish will also set you back a grand total of 100 baht - it's not fine dining but a great and affordable spot.
Slightly out of the centre but not a long walk is Hoi Ka Khinlom Chom Sapahn, located across the river from the Pattanapaknua Bridge, with tables right on the riverbank. They serve Thai-style pub/beer garden-type dishes, so they are spicy and well prepared. A cold beer goes for a mere 75 baht to cool yourself down afterwards. Dishes are generally in the 90-150 baht range so they are considerably pricier than Aroy One Baht but the setting is much nicer and the cooking somewhat more sophisticated. Service is friendly too with some English spoken though a drawback when we stopped by was some dreadful live muzak from a half-asleep elderly keyboard player. (Otherwise we would have stayed longer!)
A smattering of coffee shops and noodles and rice cafes are also sprinkled along Thipchang and Booyawat Roads, though the promising looking Grandma Cafe on Thipchang was closed every time we tried it. Of course, if you want to check out some of the local specialities, then there’s always the night market. Known as Assawin Market, this sets up every evening just behind the clock tower between Thakrao Noi and Chatchai Roads and is a popular spot with all your standard Thai faves at cheap prices plus a few more unusual local dishes. Finally there’s a good selection of food and drink stalls around the station which are open from early until late serving local coffees, pad Thais and standard rice dishes.
The Riverside: 328 Tip Chang Rd; (054) 221 861; open daily 10:00-24:00
Corkscrew Wine Bar: Tip Chang Rd; (081) 530 0033; open daily 09:00-21:00
Prink Cafe: 262-4 Talat Kao Rd; (083) 581 6921; open daily 08:00-20:00
Aroy One Baht: Corner of Suan Dok and Thipchang Rds; (054) 219 233; open daily 04:30-24:00
Hoi Ka Khinlom Chom Sapahn: Charoenprathet Rd; (084) 046 2557; open daily 11:00-24:00
Assawin Market: Behind the post office between Thakhrao and Chatchai Rds; open daily from early evening