Ristr8to was probably the last nail in the coffin for the completely wrong view I had of Thailand my first trip here. Before touching down in Bangkok I didn’t know anything about this country; probably couldn’t even point to it on a map. I just filed it under: in Asia, casual and inappropriate comments about lady boys, 3rd world, and malaria. The typical cocktail of a lightly traveled and uninformed American.
However, after stepping through Ristr8to’s large glass doors, it felt like I was back home in WA at some Seattle coffee shop where house show posters would be displayed on a cork board. There was the familiar ambient noise of Chet Faker and Passion Pit. The barista had a smock with decorative leather straps. An espresso machine grinder combo by the door who’s cost would seem ridiculous to anyone who doesn’t own a thrifted Nirvana shirt.
This was a place that could only exist where disposable income was the norm, or at least for a pool of patrons large enough for it to stay afloat. This was only reinforced by the ornate drink ware and branded wooden trays they are served on. Unnecessary as the test tubes and skull cups may seem, their presence spoke volumes to the westernization and, with it, modernization of this former capital city. Get it? Capital… Nevermind.
Ristr8to – Specialty coffee and it’s affiliate branches (there are three others. One just down the soi into Nimman, Ristr8to Lab. One just east of Tha Pae Gate, Doppio Specialty Coffee & Cult Cafe Thapae. And the last on the fourth floor of a Central Festival, Doppio Ristr8to.) are flagships of the bolstering coffee scene in Chiang Mai. They are more expensive than your average café, but they also offer a better all around experience.
The coffee on offer here is pretty all encompassing. They have the usual pour overs, espressos, lattes, and the like (not to mention nitro coldbrew, v60, siphon, chemex, ect.). But they offer them to suit you’r exact preference. The first few pages host a number of geographically named espresso and milk combinations that dictate the coffee and milk quantities. This is nice as it means you can get anything from a bitter and strong doppio all the way to something more akin to steamed milk with a gesture of coffee.
While the phrase “iced coffee kill baristas” is posted like they are being paid to advertise it (in some ways I guess they are) there is a good selection of cold brew options to choose from. This is where the large majority of the coffee mixed drinks find themselves as well. Great if you were drinking an iced mocha and thought “if only this were served in test tubes.” They’ve had this thought too, and decided to fix this non-existent issue.
Ristr8to also has a good variety of alcoholic coffees. Perfect for when you want to simultaneously get your day off on the right and wrong foot.
The biggest reason I come here is not because of the coffee though – or the vibe, the need to be ensconced in wood grain, and definitely not to listen to American tourist be oblivious to how long they’re talking (not a knock, I was there once too, but we tend to be an unconsciously loud bunch). The main reason I come here is the waffle snacks. Ohhhhh the waffle snacks. Four little perfect plaid triangles with rounded edges. Deeply golden in color and the classic sought after combination of flaky on the outside and soft on the inside. They are the best waffles I’ve ever had, and are perfect with a bitter drink of brown. Served with a small tray of strawberry jam and sweetened condensed milk filigreed maple syrup. They are just perfect.
The two main branches are Ristr8to Specialty coffee and Ristr8to Lab in Nimman. They offer the full menu of coffee as well as food (not substantial food, but more of edibles that go with coffee). Almost always packed they are best for meeting with friends when in the area. The two Doppio branches are considerably smaller and more of “if your in the area and need to relax” sort of place; baked goods being the only edible options. If you had to go to just one, Ristr8to Lab should be it. Not as busy as the branch on Nimman road (still usualy packed though), but still with the full menu (including the aforementioned waffle snacks) it is the best of both worlds.
Oh, you should also expect to be awed by the latte art here. They routinely place high in national and world latte art competitions and even won World’s in Budapest back in 2017. It’s almost infuriating how good it is.
Price: milk and coffee based drinks run just shy of 100 baht. Anything specialty will be in the 120-160 price range. The Waffle Snacks are also just shy of 100 baht.
Ristr8to Specialty coffee
Open: 07:00-18:00 Everyday
Doppio Specialty Coffee & Cult Cafe Thapae
Open: 07:08-19:00 Everyday
Doppio Ristr8to (4th floor of Central Festival)
Open: 11:00-19:00 Monday-Friday
The Good Stuff Chiang Mai