When searching for good food in Chiang Mai it’s not long until you come across SP Chicken in the old town. Chef of the Pok Pok empire, Andy Ricker loves it. Mark Wein’s has done a video there. It’s in every Chiang Mai food guide on the first page of Google.
This is an old standing restaurant that has transitioned gracefully with the Chiang Mai of old to its contemporary state. That’s to say it’s still doing what it was back in the 70’s, but now for mostly tourists; English easily understood.
There is more hype than warranted for this place, but still quite a lot of hype deserved. The main fixture here is their play on grilled chicken: stuffed with Thai herbs and aromatics, skewered, turned vertical, and cooked rotisserie style along a wall of encased glowing coals. This is how you’re greeted at the hearth. A wall of fire with chicken dancing nearby to a golden color. Like I said, hype deserved.
The chickens are basted during the cooking process quite a few times to combat the breast meat from drying out, although it still does – no problem with a little sauce however. When ready they are taken off direct heat and housed above the apparatus to rest before being prepared for ordered.
After you make some checks on a paper menu to indicate what you want and hand it to the waiter, your order gets prepared. The chicken is brought from its housing, above the radiant heat, to a few inch thick section of a tree truck; better known as the Thai cutting board. A cook then splits it down the middle via the spine and hacks the newly formed halves, width wise, into manageable pieces; a perfect two bite drumstick per half.
They do more than just chicken here. It’s got the general assortment of goodies found at a local Thai joint. A som tam pot can be heard throughout the place. Laap is on most of the tables. You can even have a hot basin of soup heated by a little flame on the table. All around good, and exactly what I want when eating this type of meal.
I’d say the biggest reason to go here is to marvel at the slowly turning birds near the machine, designed by the original owner of the restaurant. The way the fat slowly drips off the wing tips, seeing the progress in browning from when you arrive to when you leave, the glisten from the basting liquid – a real thing of beauty.
It’s a great spot if your traveling and are new to Thai food as it’s pretty tame all around. Equally good if you’re a local stuck in the old town and in need of a quality Thai meal.
You can expect to spend around 100 baht per person here for a full meal. I suggest going with people as the place is set up well for groups and this kind of meal is best enjoyed this way. A half chicken or ribs with some sticky rice would be a good quick lunch though.
The Good Stuff Chiang Mai