Truth be told, that age-old idea of 'southern hospitality' definitely applies to Louisiana.
While we can't speak for the entire state, we can attest that in New Orleans, the air is thicker, the cocktails are stronger and the friendly locals have hospitality down to an art.
Here, we sample the city's best libations, po' boys and Creole cuisine, and discover that there's a whole lot more to NOLA than mardi gras and fancy dress. This resurrected city will stick with you long after you head home.
1. Old school: grab a cup of joe and a bag of warm, sugary beignets at Cafe Du Monde
There's a reason hordes of sweettooths make the great pilgrimage to Cafe Du Monde. This simple yet seriously Instagramable French cafe has garnered a reputation for perfecting the beignet or French doughnut – and so they should, considering they churn out hundreds of these magic little morsels each day. Grab a bag of doughnuts (may we suggest sharing with a friend) order a cup of black coffee and take a wander around the French Quarter. To avoid the crowds, be sure to make Cafe Du Monde an early morning pit-stop.
2. New school: savour the cuisine at Coquette
Arguably one of Magazine Street's swankier establishments, Coquette boasts the perfect blend of contemporary European fare and easy dining. If you're craving a drink outside of the busy French Quarter, the cocktail list here is something to behold, while the spacious bar is a classy nod to New Orlean's rich heritage.
3. Old school: line up for Willie Mae's fried chicken
If lining up for a plate of melt-in-your-mouth fried chicken in the sweltering Louisiana heat doesn't sound like your idea of a holiday, you're not alone. However, this family-owned and operated fried chicken spot really is worth the sweaty wait. Don't be disillusioned, the lines are lengthy, but the chicken is something to savour. Opt for a hearty plate of mashed potatoes and gravy, collard greens, butterbeans and chicken thighs. We can attest that this simple yet much-lauded Treme-based eatery deserves the rave reviews and the hype that it's been getting since 1957.
4. Old school: get jazzy at Preservation Hall
Holding pride of place in the popular French Quarter district is Preservation Hall, a weathered and unassuming dedicated concert hall blasting out the gold standard of classic Jazz. Inside, you'll discover grassroots entertainment at its finest – think dollar donations and requests in a hat from the audience.
This intimate and historic slice of New Orleans culture is home to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who have been delighting tourists and locals alike with their smooth and sensory jazz sound for decades. What's more, each intimate performance houses no more than 40 people, with phones and cameras a strict no-go. Find a perch and soak it up.
5. Old school: devour a po' boy in the park
You can't go to NOLA and not try a 'Po' Boy', the history of this humble sandwich is virtually embedded in the city's history. According to legend, the origins of the po' boy date back to 1929, when two local brothers Benny and Clovis Martin, took to the street to feed striking streetcar drivers or unemployed "poor boys".
The duo would fill French baguettes with gravy and offcuts of slow-cooked beef, feeding the hungry masses from the rear of their restaurant. Nowadays, the famous sandwich is synonymous with soul food. For an authentic po' boy, filled with everything from crawfish to deep-fried oysters, beef and cheddar or slow-cooked pork, try Gene's Po-Boys or Domilise's Po-Boys – history never tasted better.
6. New school: share a charcuterie board at Cochon Butcher
This trendy deli and eatery offers a hearty line-up of "pork-focused, Cajun fare" that'll leave you utterly impressed. Here, the team behind the swankier neighbouring Cochon Restaurant, offer a relaxed vibe and a tasty array of meaty morsels. Opt for shared plates between friends or enjoy one of their plentiful sandwiches all to yourself, the menu quite literally caters for all.
7. Old school: sip and stay at one of the world's original cocktail bars
Housed within the grandiose Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, you'll discover the city's only revolving carousel bar. This breath-taking space, more akin to a glittering merry-go-round than your classic cocktail bar, will have you positively spellbound. Marvel at the lights and opt for the Vieux Carré – a punchy combination of rye, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, Angostura bitters and Peychaud’s bitters. This classic cocktail holds a deep history round these parts, provided it was created by the Monteleone head bartender Walter Bergeron, in the 1930s.