Dining (and nightlife) options are limited in Agra, with little stand-alone choice. Even if you're not staying at Amarvilas, Esphahan is definitely worth a splurge. Among the dining options in the other big hotels, one of the finest remains Peshawri in the Mughal Sheraton, still a firm favorite among locals in the know, or Mughal Room in the Clarks Shiraz, where live ghazals (poetry readings) add to the experience, although needs a bit of an acquired taste.
If you want to get away from the hotels, you could do far worse than the delicious and satisfying dishes served at Indiana (tel. 0562/400-1192; daily 7:30am-10:30pm), which is hardly an inspiring venue (behind Hotel Ratan Deep on Fatehabad Rd.), but will satisfy any hunger. Portions are rather large (you may even consider sharing some of the dishes between two people). The best dishes are North Indian specialties, although the habit of adding Western and Chinese items persists. If you don't mind something spicy, order murg boti masal, chicken in a wonderfully tasty gravy, or go for the spiced fish curry (rasili machhli). If you really can't decide, opt for a thali, a platter covering all the courses and including dessert or lassi.
You can get a satisfying, reasonably priced meal at Zorba the Buddha (E13 Shopping Arcade, Gopi Chand Shivare Rd., Sadar Bazaar; tel. 0562/222-6091), which serves excellent, nongreasy vegetarian food. This tiny eatery is extremely hygienic, reason enough to go. Go early to get a good table and order the light spinach parathas, any of the Indian fare, or even a salad -- all quite passable, if a trifle bland. Vegetarians (or others avoiding meat) have another option: Dasaprakash (tel. 0562/246-3535), located in the Meher Theatre Complex at 1 Gwalior Rd., is the city's best-known South Indian restaurant. Regular fare includes sada dosa (plain rice and lentil pancakes), masala dosa (pancake with potato stuffing), uttappams (thicker pancakes), and idlis (steamed dumplings), all served with coconut chutney and sambar (spiced dal). No alcohol is served. At some point, you will hear of Only restaurant on Taj Road, mentioned in every guidebook on the planet, but we find it avoidable.
Warning: Agra is renowned for moneymaking restaurant scams. Besides the fact that guides, taxi drivers, and auto-rickshaw wallas earn commissions for taking you to certain eateries, you need to be wary of getting caught up in more dangerous pursuits. Some unsuspecting diners have been taken for a ride by unscrupulous restaurateurs working in tandem with rickshaw-wallas and so-called doctors. Everyone involved might feign major concern over your health, but you'll pay dearly for the experience. Bottom line: Be careful where you eat, and if you feel sudden illness coming on, don't rely on the restaurateur to call a "doctor" -- insist on being taken back to your hotel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.