J.J. Café

A Chiang Mai institution since 1986 and certainly out of the ordinary!

The J.J. Café group has three locations in Chiang Mai, with two in Thapae Road. One is at the top end, near the Thapae Gate, and another further down, next to the Bangkok Bank, whilst the third is in Rimping supermarket and is called J.J. Bakery World.

The Dining Out Team visited the branch closest to the Thapae Gate and had lunch with restaurant manager Manop Wongchaikam, who explained the “since 1986” in the name of the restaurant - this was the date of their first bakery/restaurant and the J.J. group had been serving food in Chiang Mai continuously since then.

The restaurant gives an immediate “American diner” feel, with the booth style of seating, the clean marble floors and easy-care laminex style tabletops. Certain menu items are displayed on a light board behind the servery, again giving it that ‘fast food American’ image.

The paradox begins with the service staff. With long aprons and uniform shirts, they give a ‘European’ influence. With newspapers available (hopefully including the Chiangmai Mail) and a dedicated coffee section, a ‘Euro’ coffee house atmosphere predominates.

By the time you pick up the menu, a 12 page item, you begin to understand something about this establishment. It is not just a fast food outlet, nor is it just a coffee shop/bakery, but it is both of those, plus a full restaurant as well, with Thai and Euro and American food on offer.

The menu begins with several breakfast sets (and the restaurant opens at 6.30 a.m.) ranging between 99-139 baht, but there are also five B. 89 specials as well. The bakery items are fresh that morning, by the way. There are also “all day breakfast” items such as ham and cheese omelettes with hash browns and cantaloupe for B. 89. While still on breakfasts there are also Asian brekkies and home-made yoghurts.

Next up are salads (B. 59-109), burgers (B. 79-109) and a choice of B. 59 soups. These are followed by a page of sandwiches with different breads and fillings - order your own for B. 69.

After these there are several pages of Asian and Thai items, generally between B. 59-99, with noodles, rice dishes, curries, stir-fries, salads (and Manop assured me that their veggies were organically grown in their own farm), tom yums and even Thai vegetarian dishes. Again, Manop told me that no MSG was used in their kitchen.

It doesn’t finish there. There are European main courses (B. 149-159) including pepper steak, grilled sea bass and pork chops; pizzas (B. 129-159) and spaghetti’s (B. 89-129).

The menu finishes with drinks and desserts, but it hasn’t finished yet, as there are B. 89 lunch and dinner specials as well! Whew!

We had chosen varied items, including a Schezuan beef stir-fry, Hainan noodles with BBQ pork, a Malaysian noodle dish and a chicken, cheese and avocado sandwich on focaccia bread.

The food was brought promptly to the table and the overall impression was not only the tasty food, but also the delicate cooking done by the Thai chefs. The snow peas retained their crispness, for example, and the beef in the stir-fry or the pork in the Hainan noodles was not overdone to make it tough.

For me, the dish of the day was the Malaysian noodle with tamarind and ginger with the snow peas, cauliflower and baby corn, while Madame favoured the Schezuan beef dish.

I finished the meal with a cappuccino coffee made from the local hill tribe beans (part of the Royal Project) and roasted by J.J.’s themselves. A strong brew which will waken anyone up at breakfast time!

The Dining Out Team left J.J. Café still amazed at the excellent quality of the food and we were unanimous on our enjoyment of the lunch and our highly recommended rating is given without any doubt. The presentation of the restaurant and the quality of the food available at such a reasonable price will make this one restaurant we will put on our personal favourites list.

J.J. Café , Thapae Road, close to Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 234 007.