Inside Zibo, the barbecue city that’s become China’s hottest tourist destination

Several tables away, Bai Lingbin, 25, was already digging in, having waited since midnight. His grill, shared with four other men, was piled with toothpick-thin skewers laced with crispy pork skin, sweet potatoes and wraps.

Bai, who had traveled from Anhui province, was frank: He prefers the barbecue in northeastern China, another famous grilling region. But, he declared as he raised a beer to his table mates, whom he’d met in line: “The atmosphere here is the best.”

Still, some locals secretly profess a desire to see their hometown’s sudden fame ebb, at least a little.

Staff at barbecue restaurants said they were sleeping only a few hours each night. Residents who used to buy groceries at the suddenly popular vegetable market – where there is now nary a vegetable in sight, as snack and souvenir vendors have piled in – must find their produce elsewhere.

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