There is certainly something for everyone to be found in Soi Ari for those seeking to discover yet another excellent slice of “happening Bangkok”.
Text and Photos By Dave Stamboulis
For years, those looking for fashionable food and beverage experience in a “seen and wannabe-seen location” head over to Thonglor and Ekkamai, arguably Bangkok’s trendiest and most hip spot. However over the years, the rents have gone sky-high, the crowds and traffic have become beastly, and let’s face it, part of trendiness is being new and up-to-date, so dapper young Bangkokians began looking for somewhere new.
Now, the buzz around town is all about Soi Ari, the new northern Bangkok hipsters’ haven.
Soi Ari is located in the north of Bangkok, between Victory Monument and Chatuchak Market. While the BTS Skytrain Station named Ari located on Phahonyothin Road doesn’t reveal any eye-opener, the real delights are to be found down on both Phahonyothin Soi 5 (which leads to Rama 6 Soi 30) and Phahonyothin 7, which are bisected by sois Ari 1-11 and Soi Ari Samphan 1-11, all of which are home to a plethora of snazzy little eateries, artsy bars, chic nightclubs, and plenty of Mercedes and BMW’s rolling into the parking lots curious to find out what the buzz is all about.
What attracts many folks to Ari is precisely its lack of development on a grand scale found elsewhere in the city. The neighborhood is comprised of mostly quiet tree lined streets with lots of low-rise residential buildings. There are some nice condominiums here, but nothing overly gaudy or ostentatious, and you can actually walk on the sidewalks here, or even in the side streets at times without the fear of being run over!
Originally, this area was home to a lot of wealthy folks of ministry and military backgrounds, as there are several army bases out the Rama VI way, and the Ministry of Finance sits right in the middle of the neighborhood. However, as a few cute cafes and bars opened up, the area started attracting musicians and artists, and soon the urban indie and hipster set were making tracks for the new small scale and leafy condo developments that graced the neighborhood. These days, the word is out, but there are still plenty of spots to choose from in the area, and they do run the gamut from hi-so to street-so, with good food, good drinks, and good music all waiting for exploration.
As the area is pretty low-key except on weekends, and as it is a bit spread out, here’s a bit of a mini guide to get you going:
Phahanyothin Soi 7 leads down to the Ari sois, where you can find such gourmet paradises as Salt, a glass-walled and wooden house serving up French, Japanese, and wood-fire pizza among other favorites (Ari Soi 4). Next door is Oji, serving fusion Japanese, and if the tables at both of these venues are full, head across the street to Fatbird, which features vintage furniture and drinks and is a comfortable little niche to sip a few cocktails or partake of their mostly Western menu. There is also a branch of Basilico Pizza here along with a sleek Coffee Zelection Café, and don’t forget to sample the street food up near the top of Phahanyothin 7, it rocks!
On the opposite side of the skytrain station, Phahonyothin Soi 5 leads down to the set of sois known as Ari Samphan, and here is where you will find the neighborhood’s most famous denizen, Pla Dib (Soi Ari Samphan 7). “Pla Dib” (meaning raw fish in Thai) is another Japanese fusion eatery with a bare industrial look, where indie bands perform on weekends and a very casual and hip crowd packs the place out on most nights. Specialties include the raw salmon with larb sauce and soft-shelled crab salad with wasabi mayonnaise. Also in this neighborhood is the long-running Suan Kularb (Soi Ari Samphan 3), an excellent unpretentious diner style place that has a mammoth menu, low prices, and a great selection of cakes and baked goodies for dessert.
Drinkers here should head for the area’s only mini mall, the Aree Garden (Soi Ari Samphan 11) where the Belgian House of Beers has set up shop upstairs in the roof garden. There is also a suave wine and cigar bar tucked into the steakhouse Wholly Cow, another industrial glass and brick spot tucked into Ari Soi 2. Over on Rama 6 Soi 30, the former Moods Bar and 1852 Bistro has become Anna’s, with wines from around the world to dig into while watching all the pretty folks cruise the main drag.
There are plenty more spots hidden away in the quiet sois here, and while Japanese fusion seems to be the latest megatrend, there is certainly something for everyone to be found in Ari, and it is worth making the trek north here to discover yet another excellent slice of “happening Bangkok.”