Everyone's got their favorite flavors when it comes to nearby takeout places, but what happens when you actually go there for dinner? Sometimes it's different, and sometimes significantly one way or the other.
A while back I reviewed a place known for its soup dumplings, and made it abundantly clear that were you to sit down and dine, it was likely the service would be deliberately derisive and dysfunctional. To that end, I strongly advised calling in your dinner to pick up and take home.
I've discovered a nearby place that I feel nearly the opposite about. Thai Pepper, at the corner of Fremont Ave and Sunnyvale-Saratoga (103 E Fremont Ave if you map it), has served for my house's Thai cravings when we've no desire to (or are in no shape to) go anywhere far for food. It's always been a bit above average, with balanced, full flavor and plenty of heat if you ask for it. Fried items are never soggy, curries not too thin, and the rice always fresh. Sadly, that does include the fried rice, which can never be properly crispy unless you're using rice that was cooked the day before and cooled overnight. Still, not a serious problem considering it's most always simply a medium for soaking sauce.
Dropping in for a sit-down dinner though, that was a step up entirely. From the outside, Thai Pepper doesn't look like much, but you walk through their door and suddenly you're gently surrounded with rustic regalia. The construction of the building has lent itself wonderfully to some bungalow-style decor- including an inner court with gorgeous foliage that's probably sunlit and lovely at lunch. There's a more than vague suggestion of 'temple' in the decorations as well, but Thai art and sculpture is a weak point of mine, so I can't speak authoritatively on that.
Service is quick, but not abrupt or forceful. The servers are smiling and efficient, though somewhat heavy on the 'thank you's. Though that might be because they don't see sit-down diners as often as they ought to. I've never once seen the dining room crowded at nighttime- I noted two other occupied tables through the whole of my last meal there.
It strikes me as a place that makes its money on take-out, and I find that a bit of a shame. Some thought appears to have gone into making the inside look nice, and the food presentation is entertaining- things you won't get in a styrofoam box. On top of that, I note the in-house portion sizes seem to be a bit larger too.
There are better Thai restaurants, I'm sure. But I can walk to this one and enjoy myself. If you can too, you likewise should.