For a tiny island, Koh Tao is not hurting for outstanding restaurant options — why do you think I had to write this post? And while the Thai food here is some of the best I’ve had in the country, Koh Tao is also home to expats from around the world — meaning a cuisine scene almost as diverse as any major city I’ve ever visited (One major hole: Mexican food. Any Guadalajara gourmets want to come live in paradise and open a restaurant?) From 50 baht street food lunches to 300 baht luxury dinners, you will never go hungry on Koh Tao. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite places to eat myself silly on my favorite island.
In my opinion, The Whitening is Koh Tao’s most beautiful and romantic restaurant — when my family visited, I brought them here for Christmas Eve! Nestled on the beach in Mae Haad and lit by candles and tiny white fairy lights, you’d be hard pressed to find a better setting to eat. Some chefs might have a hard time living up to the location, but the meals are delicious (if a bit pricey). They have a large menu specializing in Thai dishes and grilled seafood and meats.
Favorite dish: Beef tenderloin steak with mashed potatoes and salad (300 baht)
Yellow Rice and Chicken
On the road to Chalok Baan Kao, just before the T-junction that leads to Autokan, a small no-name food stand serves up one of my favorite lunches on Koh Tao. For less than $2USD, this delicious meal of yellow rice and crispy chicken will have you considering making a return trip for dinner.
Favorite dish: The only one on offer — yellow rice and chicken! (50 baht)
Koh Tao has a surprising number of Italian restaurants — but none of them can compete with Porto Bello. This popular dinner restaurant in central Sairee is constantly packed, and for good reason! Stone baked pizzas, homemade pastas and imported wines will have you wondering if you’re in Thailand or Tuscany.
Favorite dish: Pesto dough ball appetizer (90 baht) followed by a margarita pizza (170 baht)
Taste of Home
This German-style restaurant is an expat favorite. Owner Uschi will do her best to accommodate special requests, but it’s hard to imagine you won’t find something you love on the small and tasty menu. The chocolate mousse with homemade Bailey’s is a local legend — make sure to order it as soon as you sit down, lest it sell out!
Favorite dish: Penne carbonara (170 baht) followed by homemade chocolate mousse (80 baht)
Sairee Cottage BBQ
I rarely eat on the beach (with the few exceptions noted here!) as it tends to be pricier and lower quality. One exception is Sairee Cottage’s nightly BBQ. A great value, a great meal, and a great location — and even I am not immune to the charm of sitting on pillows and listening to the waves crash while I eat my dinner!
Favorite Dish: BBQ special with 2 skewers, baked potato, and salad (120 baht)
My favorite local hangout and bar also serves some of the best meals on Koh Tao. The 300 Baht Sunday roast is island-famous, while the other six days of the week also see a constant stream of fans of the kitchen’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. They also just launched a new deli menu featuring imported meats, cheeses and antipasti. The setting, a thatch-roof bar tucked under a sacred banyan tree in the corner of Sairee isn’t bad either.
Favorite Dish: Homemade lasagna, big enough for two to split! (220 baht)
Sitting high up in the mountains over Koh Tao, Lum Pae provides not just an other-worldly setting but also free pickup to get there — just call 08 62871039 from anywhere on the island! Once you’ve arrived, take advantage of the most famous steak on Koh Tao, the “E4″ — the staff even wear t-shirts with the menu number emblazoned across them.
Favorite Dish: The infamous E4 steak with mashed potatoes and salad (280 baht)
Hippo broke my heart when they discontinued their 199 baht steak-and-a-glass-of-wine special last year. But this trendy and stylish Sairee restaurant will always have my heart thanks to a tasty dessert menu including apple crumble, warm brownie sundaes, and the best shakes on the island.
Favorite dish: Oreo milkshake (90 baht)
Zest, right in the heart of Sairee, is without question the best breakfast spot on Koh Tao. I might never leave if they hadn’t covered over all their electrical outlets — though perhaps that was their point. According to my vegetable-loving friends, this place also serves up the best salads on Koh Tao.
Favorite Dish: Mini breakfast set including scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon (90 baht)
Cheap Thai Places
“...And what about the cheap Thai places!?,” I hear you crying. Not to worry, I’ve saved the best for last. Scattered throughout Sairee, some of my favorite tucked-away Thai places include Su Chili, Krua Thai, Tik’s and J’Nees (known locally as Mamas). These are my daily staples on the island for delicious food at a fantastic price.
Favorite dishes: Chicken cashew nut from Su Chili (90 baht), fried broccoli and rice from Krua Thai (80 baht), and above all, chicken massaman from J’Nees (80 baht).
Did I miss any of your favorites? Tell me in the comments below!
Note: Need help finding these places? Koh Tao doesn’t really have addresses, but it’s a small island. Ask a local or check out this map for better directions!