If Bangkok’s Ari neighbourhood could write its own autobiography, it might be called From Bureaucrats to Baristas. For decades, the low-lying leafy district was known mainly for its federal ministries, municipal administration offices, and gated quasi-suburban homes.
Increasingly, however, Ari is a thicket of sleek, high-rise buildings and indie cool-kid hangouts with international flavours: German beer gardens, Latin American restaurants, Korean canteens, Japanese izakayas, American-style food trucks, and numerous freshly minted cafes stocked with Italian espresso-makers. All that’s missing is the crowds.
Even on weekends, Ari’s hot spots have free seats and ample breathing room - a rarity in bustling Bangkok.
1. PAPER BUTTER AND THE BURGER
With its outdoor seating, picnic tables, rock ‘n’ roll music and constant smoke from grilling meats, this beer-and-burger haven feels more like a backyard barbecue than a restaurant.
Created by the Thai-British cook Patrick Stall - who studied hospitality management in Perth, Australia - and his Thai girlfriend Parichart Payungwong, the laid-back hangout serves everything from Japanese-style chicken wings in ginger-garlic sauce to the signature Chiang Mai Spicy burger, a patty of shredded pork with cheddar cheese and Thai herbs.
If such combinations sound like a recipe for indigestion, request the house-made black hamburger buns. The colour comes from activated charcoal - a digestive aid.
51 Phahonyothin Soi 5, facebook.com/PaperButter
2. BAR STORIA DEL CAFFE
European-influenced brunch and decor invade Ari at this sun-drenched, Italian-style cafe that opened last year. A La Marzocco espresso machine on the marble bar pumps out ristrettos and macchiatos, while the magazine-like menu proposes The Italian Benedict (eggs Benedict with parma ham), eggplant parmigiana and much other continental fare.
13 Soi Ari 4, Phaholyothin 7, facebook.com/barstoriadelcaffe
3. TACOCHELA BY MIKKELLER
Don’t be alarmed by the mural of the decapitated half-human, half-skeleton skull on the walls at this Scandinavian-owned, Thai-staffed, Latin American bar that opened last year. Done in cartoonish Day of the Dead-style, the image is one of the many homages to Mexico, along with the pink-green-blue-yellow colour palette and selection of tacos (from beef tongue to pork belly) on the menu.
But the marquee attractions are the beers from the Danish microbrewer Mikkeller and other special guests. If the Drinco de Mayo lager or dark Texas Ranger porter aren’t strong enough, more than a dozen tequilas are also on offer.
68/1 Soi Ari Samphan 1, mikkeller.dk/location/tacochela
4. DOK KAEW HOUSE BAR
Finding a Bangkok bar suitable for your beer-swilling grandmother just got easier. Located in a creaky wooden house on a quiet residential street, this year-old craft-beer emporium is dowdy enough to please her sense of design - white lace curtains, cheap fans, plastic seats, cheesy tablecloths - and stocks enough global suds and local Thai microbrews to inebriate her whole sewing circle for a year.
And if she claims to see ghosts after a few house-brewed Nectar Coffee Stouts, it might not be the alcohol talking: The house is rumoured to be haunted.
71 Rama 6 Soi 28, +66 89 993 1663; facebook.com/DokKaewHouseBar
Bangkok traffic is notoriously nightmarish. This boutique eases the pain with its slim and elegant Japanese fixed-gear and multigear bikes. Many are outfitted with throwback leather seats and handlebar grips by the British manufacturer Brooks, and you can further accessorise your ride with messenger bags by Demano - made in Barcelona from recycled advertising banners - and panniers by the local Bangkok manufacturer Vincita that attach to your rear rack.
Forgot your cycling shoes? The shop sells its own brand of low-top sneakers. Just remember that everyone in Bangkok drives on the left.
1/5 Soi Ari 2, tokyobike.co.th
By Seth Sherwood © 2018 The New York Times