South Jersey chef serving up deep fried 'zoagies'

PENNSVILLE, N.J. (WPVI) -- Forty-year-old Ezell Barnes of Salem is the gregarious operator of a food truck parked at the Sunoco station on Route 49 in Pennsville, New Jersey. We've all heard of hoagies, but he makes what he calls "Zoagies".

"A zoagie is an unbelievable deep fried, fresh-grinder hoagie roll, where we deep fry it to where it's nice and hot," said Ezell Barnes, Zoagies owner.

That's right, Barnes deep fries the roll, and then the chicken, fish, shrimp or crab that goes inside. He doctors it up with sauces, lettuce and tomatoes.

"I'm gonna deep fry the roll. And then guess what happened? It was gold!" said Barnes.

"I never had a fried hoagie until I came here," said Mercedes Washington of Salem, New Jersey. "It's delicious."

"We live in Wilmington, Delaware, but we had to come across the bridge to get some good food," said Chandra Pitts of Wilmington, Delaware.

Chandra Pitts graduated with Barnes from Salem High School.

"So much energy from all the different people coming in, different places, different areas," said Jade Yorker, Zoagies cook.

When he first started out, Barnes would give away his zoagies to get people interested. Now they come for his unusual menu where all the dishes begin with a "Z".

"Zoagies! And basically we use the Z for everything: zhicken, zrimp, zunnelcakes," said Barnes.

Ezell Barnes is clearly a character. But beyond the humor and crazy rhymes, he's on a mission to inspire young people in the area.

"I look at the children every day and they're looking for hope, they're looking for someone to look up to. And I knew me being right here in the midst of them driving, crying, and fighting and doing everything I could to achieve my dreams, that we could inspire them," said Barnes.

Ezell Barnes hopes one day to move from his food truck to a brick and mortar restaurant. And his invention called the zoagie could lead to his "zuccess."
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.