Every night around 17:00, countless street-food vendors emerge to line either side of a long stretch of Phra Ong Dam Road. You’ll find standards like fresh fruit, fried bugs and meats-on-sticks, but also Thai-style sandwiches, cakes, takeaway curries and much more. Some noodle shops, seafood grills and made-to-order rice and stir-fry carts have a handful of tables and menus with either some English or pictures to help you order.
The market atmosphere blankets this whole area after dark, but the official night market stretches into a large lot in the centre of the action on Phra Ong Dam. Along with the vendors selling sausages, coconut ice cream and grilled corn are a handful of stalls devoted to cheap clothes and accessories. The lively scene attracts loads of university students and at least one pick-up truck blasting Thai pop hits from huge speakers.
If you’re not up for grazing the market, Phra Ong Dam also hosts the more upscale Zumo Japanese barbecue and classy Vietnam House restaurants. This is also where you’ll find P1 House and its excellent Thai restaurant and bar where you can settle into a vintage sofa to watch local musicians perform. A number of other small bars line Phra Ong Dam, making this the place to be for a relaxing beer after dark.
P-lok’s other go-to dining area would have to be the riverside, which features several midrange floating restaurants and cheap Isaan stalls that materialise further north after dark. Pae Fa Thai is a fine option for a full-on Thai feast on a relaxing riverside terrace; though expect to spend at least 200 baht per dish for the privilege. If you’re staying near the riverside and Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, My Coffee on Phutthabucha Road is a good option for fresh coffee, Thai standards and commendable burgers and pizza.
Head south along the riverside promenade and you’ll reach the night bazaar, which mainly sells goods aimed at locals rather than tourist trinkets. Along with a lively atmosphere and plenty of cheap clothes, you’ll find a handful of street food vendors here as well. About a km east, another fine night market sets up just south of the train station and focuses mainly on cheap takeaway food.
Although the Topland complex hosts a range of chain restaurants, from KFC to Korean barbecue, the best choice for international fare has to be Veggie Cafe next to LiThai Guesthouse. This smart and spacious air-conditioned cafe sticks out amid the no-frills shophouses as though it was meant for a trendy part of Bangkok (or San Francisco, for that matter). Along with a large selection of fresh juice, tea and coffee, they offer excellent burgers, homemade potato wedges, smoked salmon croissants, healthy salads, French toast and sorbet. Despite the name, most of the options come with some kind of meat or fish, but there are a few vegetarian options.
P’lok is a big city with no shortage of hole-in-the-wall khao man kai (chicken rice), noodle soup, Chinese-Thai food and Muslim curry shops scattered here and there. If you’re after a baked goodie, fresh coffee or homemade ice cream, the large Bakery Home on Aka Thotsarat Road, a few blocks north of the train station, is worth a stop. There’s no Roman script sign; just follow the smell of fresh-baked breads, cakes and brownies.