Hat Yai, being the centre of trade and commerce for Songkhla province, does not have the concentration of restaurants that more touristy destinations tend to have, but despite its not being famous as a culinary centre there is plenty of tasty cuisine to be tried. Central Hat Yai itself has a wide variety of Thai, Chinese and Malay restaurants as well as the odd assortment of establishments that lean more towards Western style. The prices ensure that even those on the tightest of budgets will not be disappointed.
For early risers plenty of noodle shops line just about every street in the central district serving your choice of noodle soup with pork, chicken or just greens in a delicate broth. Thang Ha Heng Restaurant, next to the Park Hotel on Niphat Uthit 1 Road, is one local favourite and great for people watching. You may find some of the shops are a bit more hygienic looking than others and hours of operation also vary. No sooner than one shops closes for the day the shop next door may be setting up for the lunch crowd.
A few small Thai-owned restaurants also serve up variations of a Western style breakfast, inclusive of the 'hot dog' masquerading as a sausage, beans, eggs and toast. For a decent espresso or cappuccino and WiFi, the Dent Cafe on Nipat Uthit 2 Road conveniently serves as a coffee shop as well as a dental clinic waiting room. They also have smoothies and no menu items are over 40 baht.
If you head up towards the main markets on the north side of the central district, you will find many street stalls serving up noodles, fresh fruit and a variety of grilled pork, beef and chicken through out the day and night. Combine this with a serving of rice and you have the perfect street meal. There may or may not be some sort of seating offered or even basic napkins, so be prepared.
At night colourful Supasarnrangsan Road comes alive with night hawker stalls filling the street. This brings additional street food selections to adventurous food explorers and with low enough prices that one can afford to try a variety of items for educational purposes. Rest assured that competition is high so standards of quality will also be on the average higher.
If you prefer something a bit more upscale many of the more traditional Chinese restaurants and family-style establishments are located in the larger hotels, serving up good examples of Thai-influenced Chinese food. Extremely popular Washington Chinese Restaurant, directly next door to Kings Hotel, is nearly impossible to get into without reservations, but if you are looking for the real deal Chinese meal, it is the place to go. For a high quality seafood meal that won't break the bank, Saunsamrarn Restaurant, on the corner of Manat Ruedi and Niphat Uthit 3 roads, is a sure winner.
Two main joints serve both Western and Thai food along Thamanoonvithi Road and also include full bars: The Swan Pub, near Sangchan Road, is a smaller, more intimate joint while for sports fans, The Pub is near the corner of Niphat Uthit 3 Road. They both have reasonably priced Thai menus, but the Western food seems the biggest draw. They cover everything from burgers and sandwiches to pastas and roast lamb.
The newer Hive Restaurant and Bar is located near Cathay Guesthouse. The Hive seems to be the most popular late nightspot for expats and backpackers and is often busy into the wee hours.