Indian restaurants run the gamut from roadside shacks (dhabas) to classy five-star places where the experience is comparable to places anywhere in the world. Away from the big cities and tourist haunts, mid-level restaurants are scarce, and food choice will be limited to the local cuisine, Punjabi/Mughlai, "Chinese" and occasionally South Indian.
The credit for popularizing Punjabi cuisine all over the country goes to the dhabas that line India's highways. Their patrons are usually the truckers, who happen to be overwhelmingly Punjabi. The authentic dhaba is rather plain, but serves up a tasty dish of roti and dhal with onions, and diners sit on cots instead of chairs. Hygiene can be an issue in many dhabas, so if one's not up to your standards try another.
In Southern India, "Hotel" means a local restaurant serving south Indian food, usually a thali -- a full plate of food that usually includes a kind of bread and an assortment of meat or vegetarian dishes -- and prepared meals.
Although you may be handed an extensive menu, most dishes are served only during specific hours, if at all.
Tipping is unusual outside of fancier restaurants where 10% is appropriate.
Menus in English
Menus in Indian restaurants are usually written in English — but using Hindi names! Here's a quick decoder key that goes a long way for understanding common dishes like aloo gobi and muttar paneer.
* aloo — potato
* chana — chickpeas
* gobi — cauliflower (or cabbage)
* machli — fish
* makhan — butter
* mattar — green peas
* mirch — chilli pepper
* murgh — chicken
* palak — spinach
* paneer — Indian cottage cheese
* subzi — vegetable