In central Bangkok, Siam Paragon has its ground-floor Gourmet Paradise, a heaving, where-the-fuck-are-we-going-to-sit food sanctum packed to the cubic centimeter with scads of restaurants, food stalls, a food court, pop-up food exhibitions, and scores of foodies (or what some might just call “humans”). It’s an old favorite of mine and remains well in favor of locals and tourists, too, though proceed with caution during weekend afternoons, when the place is packed tighter than a… than a… than a this.
Next door, trendy Siam Center has the fourth-floor Food Factory, described accurately on its website as a “new trendy city hangout with international restaurants and food shops” (check Food Republic and Som Tam Noir). Just down the road there are more than 100 restaurants at Central World, including a great food court in the back of Central Food Hall. Across the street at Big C, there’s a sprawling food court and handful of restaurants on the top floor; I don’t often eat there anymore, but will always have a soft spot due to my Galaxy Street Basketball days.
Around the corner from Big C and Central World, the Platinum Fashion Mall manages an insanely popular–and, in turn, completely fucking insane–food court on the sixth floor; right across the street, in City Complex, locals still take to a small stage in between bites of som tam to sing karaoke in an old food court down to just a few vendors.
This is not a comprehensive list.
Yes, in Bangkok’s central areas of Siam, Ratchaprasong, and Pratunam it’s here a food court, there a food court, everywhere another massive food court–and as I’ve said before, many of these well-priced food court stalls serve excellent, authentic Thai cuisine, despite what some silly food snobs might tell you. (Is there anything worse than a food snob?)
Now just over a year old, Eathai is still one of the newest and certainly one of the most interesting food courts in the area. Occupying some 5,000 square meters of the basement level at Central Embassy (which has a snappy design, but is a bitch to navigate and has less soul than a Transformers sequel), Eathai is the only food court exclusively serving Thai foods, with the exception of one Thai-Vietnamese stall. There’s also a tiny cocktail bar, the Issaya Cooking Studio–a demo kitchen/cooking school/chef’s table under the direction of international Thai food celebrity Ian Kittichai–and Talad Eathai, a surprisingly affordable shop stocked with an impressive range of Thai goods. This is a great place to pick up souvenirs and gifts (and to stuff your face with free samples).
The Eathai food court is conveniently organized into regional cuisine (north, south, central, Esan) and street food areas; I’m guessing that’s one detail lost on most Western tourists used to Western-style Thai food, but it’s a nice touch regardless. Menus are in English, of course, and most all stalls have at least a few example dishes set out for your browsing convenience–just pick anything that sounds or looks good because it likely will be. I realize that’s vague advice, but I believe in your best judgment, dear reader. (Try to pick something out of your comfort zone.)
Unlike at many Bangkok food courts, where you pre-load a scannable card with baht, pay at each stall, then collect any remaining balance on departure, at Eathai it’s just the opposite: you’ll still get a scan-as-you-go card, but payment is settled on your way out. Prices vary, but expect to cough up a little more than you would at any of the aforementioned eating courts. Don’t worry, it’ll still be relatively cheap, plus you’re getting the convenience of (indifferent) table service: after you order, just hand your receipt to a server moving about your chosen seating area.
There’s no shortage of food courts in central Bangkok, but if you only have time, or the inclination, for just one, make it Eathai.
Eathai is located at Central Embassy, 1031 Ploenchit Rd., in Bangkok.