With metro tiles, bare lightbulbs and – dear god – iced coffees in mason jars being all the rage in Bangkok’s coffee shops these days, these old-style cafes found in Bangkok’s Old Town are a welcome change of scenery. Don’t expect Ethiopian beans, avocado toast or cold brew lattes, but good ‘ol Thai coffee and kaya toast at old-time prices.
On Lok Yun (ออน ล๊อก หยุ่น)
An institution in Bangkok’s Old Town, On Lok Yun dishes up Thai-style American breakfast classics such as fried or scrambled eggs, ham, and sausages. You’re going to find better American breakfasts elsewhere in town, so we recommend sticking to what they do best: Thai iced tea (cha yen) and toast. The toast is incredibly fluffy and comes with a side of sugar and butter, condensed milk or egg custard (kaya).
Step inside, and it immediately shows that little has changed since its opening 80 years ago: a no-frills interior with wooden cabinets on either side filled with a wide range of 80’s style tins, condiments, and Thai paraphernalia. This nostalgia-inducing cafe attracts a mix of young locals and Thai-Chinese aunties and has also become a rite of passage for many Singaporean travelers, thanks to its extensive coverage on Instagram and blogs (avoid their hour-long photo shoots by visiting on a weekday).
Tip: while you’re in the area, hop by Bangkok’s first-ever department store The Nightingale Olympic a few blocks away from here.
72 Charoen Krung Road, Bangkok
Kopi Hya Tai Kee (โกปี๊ เฮี้ยะไถ่กี่)
With marble-top tables, vintage portraits on the wall and tea served in Chinese ceramic cups, Hya Tai Kee is easily the most photogenic pick of this list. Its menu is also the most extensive, as aside from coffee and toast, you’ll find a wide selection of curries and sandwiches on sale. Their signature kai kata is a must: fried eggs in an aluminum pan topped with Chinese sausage, ground pork, and peas and a side of buttered toast. The Thai coffee comes in three different styles (from strong to mellow) and is served on a metal tray paired with little tins of sugar, condensed milk and an empty cup to fill with complimentary tea from a pot on the counter.
This ‘chain’ has multiple outlets across the city, but the original one (opened in 1953), on the corner of Prachathipatai Road and Wisutkasat Road (pictured) is by far the most atmospheric.
Wisutkasat Junction, Bangkok
Eiah Sae (เอี๊ยะแซ เยาวราช)
This 90-year old coffee place tucked away in a small street that runs parallel with Chinatown’s Yaowarat Road is definitely the scruffiest of the bunch. It’s dark, a bit dirty and service is stern – just the way we like our Yaowarat coffee joints. The fact that it’s always packed with old Teochew uncles reading newspapers, smoking cigarettes and gossipping the day away, only adds to its character. Strike up a conversation if you speak Chinese!
You won’t find a cappuccino or latte here: the coffee, brewed daily according to a traditional family recipe is pitch black and overly sweet thanks to the heaps of condensed milk loaded in your cup. Order some soft-boiled eggs and charcoal-grilled toast if you fancy, but honestly, there are way better lunch and breakfast options around.
101-103 Phat Sai Road, Bangkok
Eak Teng Yu Ki (เอ็กเต็งผู่กี่)
A bit further down the road from Eiah Sae you’ll find Eak Teng Yu Ki. This narrow shophouse cafe might seem a bit intimidating at first, as you’ll most likely be the only non-Thai-Chinese grandpa in the building, but once you’ve sat down and your order has been taken – watching the elderly of Chinatown pass their day is a pleasant way to spend some time. There’s no English menu available, but you can take a pick from the typical kopitiam fare: soft-boiled eggs, dark coffee, and kaya toast.
163 Phat Sai Road, Bangkok
Num Heng Lee (หน่ำเฮงหลี)
Slowly becoming an Instagram favorite thanks to the hip brunch places opening shop in this neighborhood, Num Heng Lee has been around for about 60 years. This bare-bones cafe located in an old shophouse along busy Chakkraphatdi Phong welcomes locals for their morning coffee as early as 6AM. The menu is simple and has the classics you’d expect in a cafe like this, but it’s the homemade kaya custard that makes us come back every time.
The old twin sisters running the shop speak excellent English and are happy to strike up a conversation if it’s not too busy. And while you’re there, do take the time to appreciate the amazing vintage fridge in the corner.
212 Chakkraphatdi Phong Road, Bangkok