Sukhumvit Soi 8
*SOI 8 is one of the BigChilli’s favourite streets, partly because it is a dead-end which means the traffic is light and walking without fear of being mowed down by an impatient driver is possible. Indeed, the far end of the soi has a wonderful tranquil air that has been recognized by some shrewd entrepreneurs as a great location for several cute and surprisingly inexpensive hostels and guesthouses. A curiosity is a traditional Thai school whose octogenarian owner and her family refuse to sell out to developers. And for a few minutes every weekday, the street fills up with young kids in their distinctly Thai school uniforms.
For some unfathomable reason, Soi 8 is also largely free from the dreaded taxi mafia and pavement vendors that rule public space in Soi 11 and other thoroughfares.
Independent restaurants prevail here; not a single establishment is part of a chain. At least for now. Most of them are located at the busy top end of the soi, which is handily right next to the Nana BTS station.
Restaurant highlights include Via Vai (Italian),
Monsoon (international) and Stable Lodge (Scandinavian). Opening soon are Little Italy and a yet-to-be-named seafood restaurant on a site previously occupied by the legendary Le Banyan.
Bars with a buzz include The Kiwi Pub (previously known as Soi 8), Det-5, a popular music venue with a large outdoor dining area, and Coffee@8.
GOOD: Almost a genuine walking street; reasonably tranquil, especially at the far end
BAD: Can’t think of anything
The revamped Q Bar and its new in-house venue, The Vault, are two of the street’s edgiest late-night venues; the others are Above Eleven (at Fraser Suites Sukhumvit) and Levels in the Aloft Hotel. Many of their customers warm up in the incredibly popular and much admired Oskar Bistro. Popular pubs-with-food include Mulligan’s, The Australian, Champions and the Old German Beer House. Zaks is both a pub and wine bar, and also serves great food. Although hardly a pub, the phenomenally successful hole-in-the-wall Cheap Charlie’s nonetheless attracts a big nightly crowd, when it’s not raining.
Sukhumvit Soi 11
SOI 11 is unquestionably Bangkok’s most popular street for expat residents and tourists looking for action in a rapidly expanding choice of venues. By day, it is rather scruffy and unsightly; a virtual parking lot for taxis, while vendors block the sidewalks. It doesn’t improve much by dark, but at least the bright lights create a more attractive picture. Soi 11 is also a major thoroughfare, funneling traffic from the main Sukhumvit to Soi 3 and Soi 21, so pedestrians are often forced to compete with heavy traffic flow because the sidewalks are simply not accessible. But there’s no doubting the nightly excitement and buzz on Soi 11.
Soi 11 has multiple dining out possibilities. For Mexican, there’s the newly opened Coyote, and the long-established Charley Brown’s; Spanish is served at Tapas Café; French at Chez Pape; Italian at Pizzeria Limoncello; New Zealand seafood at Snapper; Indian at Moghul Room; modern Tandoori at Charcoal; and Thai at Zanzibar. Specialising in highly regarded burgers is Firehouse. Opening soon on a side street is the second branch of El Gaucho, the Argentinean steak house on Soi 19. There are additionally lots of quirky bistros and bars inhabiting dark corners of a popular area which, sadly, is apparently destined for redevelopment. Live music is yet another draw in Soi 11. Venues that host some excellent local bands include Apoteka, Nest rooftop lounge bar, and the recently opened Wolff’s.
GOOD: Exciting, edgy and very international
BAD: Taxi mafia, vendors clogging the sidewalks
Sukhumvit Soi 16
SOI 16 is not immediately attached to the main Sukhumvit so its various attractions are therefore often overlooked. Which is a shame because it is an interesting street with a surprisingly large number of restaurants set in a generally uncongested area.
Apart from the Foodland supermarket, Soi 16 is perhaps best known for Kuppa, an architect-designed restaurant serving international fare that’s hugely popular with expats, and Long Table, serving Thai cuisine with a creative twist. There’s much more, of course, with Italian cuisine to be found at La Cantina, Pizzazo and It’s Time, while the US Steakhouse specializes in, guess what.
The specialties of Balee Laos, a laid-back al fresco restaurant, and Baan Thai speak for themselves. Soi 16 has a newcomer with a tantalizing name – 32 December Patisserie & Bistro, serving international cuisine, as does Grand Café The Green Parrot. And if you’re a fan of Japanese, there are plenty of venues to choose from on this usually fairly tranquil street.
GOOD: Surprisingly good number of restaurants.
BAD: Not immediately connected to Sukhumvit, but not a big deal.
Sukhumvit Soi 20
SOI 20 is another one of those rare Sukhumvit streets where pedestrians aren’t cannon fodder for crazed motorists, even though it does link to busy Soi 22. A recent boom in hotel construction may change all that, with taxis cruising for business or hogging available parking. Overall, though, it’s a street with considerable appeal.
For years, a decent percentage of Soi 22’s customers has been down to two restaurants, Bei Otto, Bangkok’s oldest German diner and bier haus, and Chesa, the city’s most popular Swiss eatery, run by Thomas and Rene, a partnership of remarkable longevity.
Bei Otto’s German exclusivity has been recently challenged by newcomer Deutsches Eck, located some way down the street. But Chesa has the Swiss market sewn up. Bangkok’s growing love affair with Spanish cuisine is being put to the test at Taberna Jamon Jamon, while lovers of basic Italian food can dine at Basilico Pizzeria. And if you like restaurants serving Thai and Chinese, drop by Green Garden, JeNgor or Thong Lee.
GOOD: Long established and therefore reliable restaurants
BAD: Getting busier
Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thonglor)
WHILE the majority of Bangkok’s street names don’t reflect anything about the roads they identify (Wireless Road, the biggest offender, is strung together like a 1950’s computer), the moniker Thonglor actually works. Well, at least figuratively. You see, roughly translated, Thonglor means molten gold, and for a street that has established itself over the past five years as the city’s most affluent neighbourhood, this description couldn’t be more apt.
Thonglor is where creative entrepreneurs can flourish; it’s here you see some of the city’s most exciting F&B concepts; and the street attracts an achingly hip, highbrow clientele – think impossibly lithe Thai women wrapped in body-hugging dresses – by top designers, no less – wandering arm in arm with gym-toned blokes, clad in white-shirts and rolled-up-chinos, whose hair points heavenward with a super-glue sheen.
The traffic may be terrible, and the lack of parking a real bane, but such annoyances are quickly forgotten when you sink into a couch and slurp on a boozy cocktail at the Harry Potter movie set-aping Iron Fairies, or tuck into fish and chips while listening to jazz at Fat Gut’z, or cozy up to teddy bears, eat huge chunks of homemade cake, and sip tea from children’s tea cups at Mr Jone’s Orphanage. Seriously.
You can select from more than 300 international beers at Brew, sink innovative cocktails at Clouds (both at SeenSpace Thonglor 13 – one of the city’s liveliest nightspots), savor rooftop drinks at Octave, and enjoy an Irish-tinged drinking experience at Flann O’Brien’s. And when it comes to dining, you’re really spoilt for choice. Just some of the highlights on the street include Roast (International), Soul Food Mahanakorn (Thai), Supanniga Eating Room (Thai), Perfume (Creative international cuisine), The District Grill Room & Bar (steaks), Masala Art (Indian), Wine Republic (Thai and International), Amalfi Bistro (Italian), Tribeca Restobar (New York-inspired cuisine), Phuket Town (Thai), and diVino (Italian). Lighter bites are available, meanwhile, at Bangers (serving gourmet hotdogs), and Sway (which specializes in chicken wings and craft beers).
Scheduled to open later this year on Thonglor 17 is The Commons, an urban marketplace developed by the owners of Roast which will feature a large indoor market selling everything from coffee (by Roast) and baked goods (by Maison Jeanne Phillipe), to Isaan bites (by Soul Food Mahanakorn), Seafood and cocktails (by Rocket Bar Group), rotisserie and pasta (by Appia), and beer (by Brew).
GOOD: Home to some of the city’s most exciting F&B concepts
BAD: Bad traffic and lack of parking
Sukhumvit Soi 31
SOI 31 is fast becoming one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods thanks mainly to a host of upmarket restaurants, cute coffee shops, and denizens who really care about their properties and the area’s general appearance (former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva lives halfway down the soi).
Within walking distance of Phrom Phong BTS, the soi is home to four of the city’s finest Italian restaurants – each with its own distinct character and unique take on this famous cuisine – including Bella Napoli (a long-standing pizzeria offering Italian staples at reasonable prices), Antonio’s (gourmet Italian cuisine made using timeless family recipes), Appia trattoria (owned by Chef Paolo Vitaletti, who flew out his mum to help set up the menu – think Roman family recipes with the finest ingredients); and Peppina (also owned by Chef Paolo, this time offering Neapolitan-style pizzas and Italian favourites).
Don’t fancy Italian? Other restaurants on the soi include Simple (western classics cooked using organic and locally sourced ingredients), Tiger Sleep Eat/Suea Non Kin (Thai), 100M Wine & Bistro (rooftop dining at S31 hotel), Isao (Japanese fusion), Himali Cha Cha & Son (Indian), and the brand new Aston Dining Room & Bar (molecular cuisine).
Coffee and dessert fans can get their caffeine and sweet fixes at Wonderwall The Kaffe Bar at Avora 31 Residence, Cherubin (a must for chocolate lovers), Mousses & Meringues (offers over 50 types of cakes and baked goods), Caffe What If (offers baked goods, homemade savory dishes and craft beers), and Coffeas Coffee Lab & Pub (freshly brewed coffee with coffee beans sourced from Thailand’s North).
The area is slim on bars, but you can enjoy a good range of innovative cocktails made with Thai spirits such as Mekhong and Sangsom mixed with local herbs and fruits at Potion – a great spot for a night out with friends.
GOOD: Relaxed atmosphere, clean and uncluttered, good choice of restaurants
BAD: Minimal parking, lack of bars
Sukhumvit Soi 33
MANY of the establishments in this well-known soi may be named after painters, but you can bet Van Gogh’s right ear that they aren’t pedaling art. Most bars that line the street are of the hostess variety, and while they’re nowhere near as sleazy as bars found in Nana or Soi Cowboy, most will team any drinks ordered with the offer of female companionship, which may beat a bowl of soggy nuts, but it’s not for everyone. That said, amongst the venues for which Soi 33 is famed are several salubrious sports bars and restaurants which offer squeaky-clean fun for everyone – and these kind of establishments are on the rise.
For top quality imported steaks and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere make a beeline for Tenderloins Sports Bar & Steakhouse (which also offers a good selection of wine – don’t miss daily happy hours from 4pm-7pm). Also check out its sister restaurant, Bistro 33, which is located just a short walk away offering bistro cuisine and an extensive selection of wines and spirits in a casual, elegant and tastefully appointed house. For Italian cuisine, Basilico Pizzeria is a good choice for inexpensive pizzas, while the longstanding Pan Pan is a favourite choice of Thai celebs who like its hearty portions of pasta. Delicious Thai food, meanwhile, is served up daily at Oam Thong Thai Cuisine, and Bao & Buns serves a range of tasty Taiwanese-style burgers.
Recent additions to the soi include Ocean@Livingstones Urban Boutique Resort, which brings the beach club concept to the heart of the city and regularly hosts poolside parties with live DJs; and The Fat Beagle Café, which serves homemade baked goods.
GOOD: Constantly evolving, fun and vibrant
BAD: Still renowned for its girlie bars
Sukhumvit Soi 33/1
WHO said pub crawls aren’t possible in Bangkok? Head to this small enclave a short walk from the steps of Phrom Phong BTS and you’ll find three British-style pubs located literally several metres apart – The Robin Hood, The Dubliner, and The Royal Oak. Each has its own distinct character and loyal following of regulars, and each serves up a good selection of traditional pub grub, as well as the requisite Sunday roast.
The Comedy Club Bangkok, the city’s first dedicated English language comedy venue, hosts open-mic stand up every weekend above the Royal Oak (renowned international comics regularly feature, too), and you can find superior cups of joe at Ceresia Coffee Roasters, owned by a Venezuelan family who use only the finest coffee beans to create their brews.
GOOD: Three expat pubs within walking distance of each other
BAD: Plans to visit for ‘just one pint’ never seem to go as planned