Founded in 1718 by French colonists who saw the promise of commerce in this soft, curving land near the base of the Mississippi River, New Orleans has always been a city of entrepreneurs and idealists, the gutsy and the fanciful. Spain arrived. And Africa. Sicily, the Caribbean, and others. The creative interplay between cultures gave birth to the jazz, Mardi Gras, and incomparable cuisine that make this place extraordinary. Hurricane Katrina dealt a blow in 2005—the current population (around 360,000 in 2011) falls far short of prestorm numbers. Yet, from the historic French Quarter at the city's heart to the tree-shaded boulevards of Uptown to its west, the streets of shotgun houses in the Bywater to the east, the Treme to the north, and beyond, the music remains strong. The pageantry is spectacular. And the classic restaurants—Creole, Cajun, and otherwise—make food that's as delicious and vibrant as ever. Here are some of our favorite legendary places to eat, drink, and stay in New Orleans.