Nathon is a transit town for the vast majority of both foreign and Thai visitors, and it is with good reason that few people stick around. Should you find yourself with a few hours to kill though, a few restaurants are worth trying both in town and along the northern stretch of beach and mudflats that runs up to Laem Yai. And along with Lipa Noi and Taling Ngam to the south, Nathon enjoys excellent positioning for sunsets.
For Thai curries and southern Thai Muslim curries, there are two spots towards the southern end of the beach road. The first is a no-name joint, open for breakfast and lunch, with just a few tables and chairs right before Jinta City View. Look for the large silver pots and expect to pay around 50 baht for a couple of curries ladled over rice. Fifty metres further to the south is Krua Halal, which is similar priced, with southern Thai Muslim curries. It's open mornings only.
Heading further south you'll reach a cluster of more tourist-orientated restaurants positioned to take in the sunset. First off the rank is Lucky, followed by Krua Savoiey and the View, and then, across the road, Sunset Restaurant and beer garden. You can continue through sunset and down the beach for 50 metres for another beach bar with slightly better prices.
Lucky has several menu pages dedicated to vegetarian versions of Thai dishes such as "tofu cashew nut" (100 baht), their take on chicken cashew nut, with other choices including panang tofu, sweet and sour tofu, all the regular curries in veg and tofu options, and tofu with fried basil. This isn't only vegetarian though and meat versions are there too. Fried rice and pad krapow moo are under 100 baht, and curries are in the 100 to 150 baht range. Western-style pastas start at 150 baht and sandwiches are under 100 baht. They are also open for breakfast. A signboard out front included pad thai, pie & mash, curry and pepper steak; they're covering a lot of bases!
Krua Savoiey is a decent and long-running (more than 25 years) restaurant just to the south of Lucky. It does a comprehensive mix of Western (burgers, pizza and steaks in the 150 to 300 baht bracket) along with what they call "Thai favourites". We had just chicken rice (you'll see the telltale glass cabinet out front) and a coffee for under 100 baht – the menu is huge.
Pale blue The View is right next door to Krua Savoiey and Sunset Beer Garden is on the beach side of the road, immediately after it turns inland. We only had a coffee at the former and a cold drink at the latter, but both offer Thai and Wstern food and are excellently positioned for sunset views.
Also in Nathon, but off the beach, is Jit Restaurant, which is a typical upcountry, back to basics, wooden Thai restaurant. The kitchen is right by the street and wooden tables and chairs are both inside and out on the footpath of the side street it sits on the corner with. Prices are very reasonable with most mains under 200 baht. They do simple one-plate dishes like fried rice, chicken with ginger and squid in garlic pepper, along with more filling soups and curries. The southern fried yellow pork curry comes recommended. You'll have no view here, but you're more likely to be dining beside Thais rather than tourists instagramming the sunset.
Heading north from Nathon on the road north to Laem Yai and Bang Po is a string of Thai seafood restaurants lined up before the turn off to the Four Seasons. They are all ideally placed for a seafood sunset dinner – quite a few have live music in the evening as well. We only tried one, Jawat Samui, which did Thai seafood, but also had a good selection of spicy salads including one of our favourites, muu manao. The menu is lengthy and we loved the (mistranslated) fried platypus (they meant fried duck beak). This is a good spot to order a few dishes, let the friendly staff know you like it spicy and rock back for a couple of hours. There are bamboo platforms down on the beach should you want to catch more of a breeze.
Jawat Samui: T: (095) 098 4321; open daily 12:00-23:45 https://www.facebook.com/Jawat-Seafood-Restaurant-1582863231985866/.
Jit Restaurant: T: (077) 421 091.
Krua Savoiey: T: (077) 420 380.
Lucky Restaurant: 310/22 Moo 4, Nathon; T: (077) 420 392; open Mon-Fri 08:00-22:00, Sun 09:00-22:00.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Our top 10 places to eat and drink around Ko Samui