Every evening at around 17:00, long lines of vendor stalls materialise along the riverfront road, Chumphon Road and a connecting street to form Tak’s night market. Some places have a few tables where you can tuck into a bowl of kuay tiao nam (noodle soup), khao soi (Northern Thai curry chicken noodle soup) or khao man gai (chicken rice), among many other options. There’s also a large, centrally located open-air restaurant serving suki (hot pot) along with cold beer within sight of the river. We preferred to graze on finger foods like sai oua and sai grok (Northern and Northeastern Thai sausages), grilled chicken, mango with coconut sticky rice and other Thai sweets. There’s even a soft-serve ice cream stall near the pedestrian footbridge.
From morning to mid afternoon, a few different roofed markets also occupy cramped quarters between the riverside road and Chumphon Road in the heart of downtown. These are worth a browse to see piles of chillies, herbs, vegetables, fresh meats and fruit, including some excellent durian when it’s in season from around April to July.
Run by a very welcoming English-speaking woman, Raan Dim Sim Dim Sum is a good option for travellers who are worried about the language barrier. The picture menu displays a wide range of dim sum, sala bao (steamed buns) and khanom jeen (sticky rice noodles) served in a comfortable air-con dining room from 08:30 to 20:00. It’s located just west of Mani Banphot Park on the east side of town; head east on Taksin Soi 9 and keep walking until you see a small yellow sign with Thai script and pictures of dim sum on the right. Next-door is Raan Season, an open-fronted shop serving rotisserie chicken, som tam (papaya salad) and khao soi until 17:00.
Another good option for som tam along with a full range of Isaan fare is Krokdaeng Banmai, occupying an old wooden house off Taksin Road to the east of the Viang Tak Hotel -- look for a white sign in Thai with a picture of a mortar and pestle at the corner. Som tam kai khem (papaya salad with salted preserved egg) is a favourite, though we’d opt for the classic som tam Isaan made with fermented fish sauce. You’ll also find gai yang and kor muu yang (grilled pork neck) along with other Isaan staples like tum teua (long bean salad) and tom saep muu (fiery pork soup). The menu is only in Thai so you might need to do some pointing if you’re not familiar with Isaan food. It’s open for lunch and dinner; have a tuk tuk driver call 081 834 2450 if you can’t find it.
For something milder, Pad Thai Boran is a tiny footpath kitchen where a smiley woman cooks up pad Thai noodles in a super-hot wok across from and just south of the Soho Hotel on Mahathat Bamrung Road -- look for the wok and rice noodles alongside a few blue tables. For just 30 baht, the “piset” version bags you deep-fried pork fat on the side of an already sizeable plate of noodles.
Tak also has a few air-con coffee and dessert shops if you need a hit of caffeine, air-con, cake and WiFi. Awake Owl is one option in front of the Soho Hotel, though we’d head further north up Taksin Road to grab ice cream and coffee at the larger Chokdee Gift Koff, located across the street from Wat Phrao. If you absolutely must find something resembling Western food, Pizza by Tae (the “Tae” is written in Thai) sells Thai-style pizza next to the Viang Tak Hotel.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.