About six years ago Ray Gruezke closed Rue 127 to open Frey Smoked Meats, returning to his family’s roots. His mother is a member of the Frey meat clan, who have been meat purveyors in New Orleans since 1865.
This was exciting news to the Marys, who are barbecue fanatics. Ray employed some touches here that harken back to his days in fine dining. He went the extra step to offer fries that were fresh cut. His menu is really large for a barbecue joint, mainly because he wanted to have some fun upping the ante with basic barbecue. On a recent visit I had brisket taquitos, for example, and yes, they were good.
There is a large outdoor space and a larger indoor space that is tucked away on Carrollton behind the front strip of the shopping area. We had to look for it the first time we went, and were happy to do so. We loved Frey because it was innovative and good. And then barbecue went viral. Like the gourmet burger craze, barbecue was everywhere, and frankly, done better. That’s not to say that Frey isn't good, but it isn’t as good as it was. Or is it that all the others are better by comparison?
One of the most interesting culinary developments in the city, to this barbecue nut, is the arrival on the scene of neighboring Blue Oak. Blue Oak is the hip kid on the block, with their Instagram lines and millennials there for social media specials. Blue Oak is spectacularly good barbecue. It is the gourmet stuff. It is brisket cheese fries with great fresh cut fries. Down at Frey, the clientele is more of the everyman, which frankly, is a crowd I’m personally more comfortable in. But I can’t get away from the idea that the food is now definitely better at Blue Oak. To my taste, anyway.
On a recent trip to Frey, I had the taquitos and a platter of barbecue with the traditional white bread and some pickles and onion accompaniments. It was fine, but not memorable. The place was filled enough, but there was no annoying line like down the street. We also had a hamburger on the table that was quite ordinary but also fine, and some jalapeno mac ‘ n’ cheese that was also good enough. None of this was worth going back for more. I haven’t thought about it since.
The girls that work here are helpful and friendly, which I prefer to the fast-casual line thing at Blue Oak. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of this culinary dichotomy.
4141 Bienville St New Orleans
Friday & Saturday till 10
Sunday 10-9 Brunch till 2