New Orleans has an atmosphere quite different to any other American city: louche, laidback, wild, wanton, eccentric, eerie. It was the birthplace of jazz and home to many of the originators of rhythm & blues; its food, a mix of Cajun, Creole and European influences, is acclaimed and copied worldwide. Even residents recognise the standard of cooking here is extraordinary and the number of establishments to enjoy it overwhelming. It's just not like other places: fierce debates rage over who serves better red beans and rice or gumbo and the decision of where to eat can be seen as a mark of character. But the visitor has only to enjoy themselves, and we're confident that with its focus on eating and carousing (with just a few other diversions), this guide will lead the user to good times, memorable times, maybe even wild times. Have fun – but use with caution!