In this section, we will explore some of Ningbo’s most popular local eateries. You know the ones. Pass by them at the right time of day and you’ll see a massive line, often wrapping around the block. With people waiting so long, we figure there must be something to it. Join us each month as we take a deeper look at some of these local culinary treasures.
For most of the day, Xing Ning Bridge Roast Chicken sits quietly on the western side of the Xing Ning Bridge, which connects southern Jiangdong and Haishu. In the early afternoon, however, a small crowd begins to gather outside the service window, waiting anxiously for it to open.
Beginning shortly after lunch, the salty smell of poultry roasting to crispy perfection begins to waft out of the inconspicuous little white storefront and quickly takes over the whole block. Whether this form of advertising is intentional or not, it is certainly effective. As serving time approaches, a line begins to form out front comprised mostly of folks who look like they’ve been coming regularly for years and a few young souls eager to have their first bite.
By most accounts, Xing Ning Bridge Roast Chicken has been open for seven or eight years, serving up roast bird nearly every day. The crowd is decidedly local, with all but a few patrons yammering on in Ningbohua. We spoke to people who lived just around the corner and some who traveled across the city to get their takeout. No one seemed to mind the journey either way. It was clear that for some, lining up to buy chicken here is as much about the nostalgia of it as the chicken itself. In any case, it was clear most everyone was a die-hard fan of the place and its offerings.
There’s something wonderful about places with the business model of doing one thing and doing it well. That’s exactly what Xing Ning Bridge Roast Chicken does; roast chicken and nothing else (food-wise, though, as they amusingly do sell cigarettes, baijiu and playing cards because of course they do).
The chicken is fire-roasted so that the skin on the outside is a crispy golden brown, with tender, succulent meat on the inside. There’s not much variety or complexity in terms of spices or a rub, as the predominant flavors are “salt” and “chicken,” much in line with Ningbo cuisine’s focus on cooking methods over preparation. With that in mind, there is something to be said both for simplicity and the quality of one’s ingredients. Xing Ning Bridge Roast Chicken uses fresh, high-quality meat and allows the natural flavors and textures to stand at the forefront.
Xing Ning Bridge Roast Chicken is takeout only, meaning you unfortunately can’t sit down and devour the entire thing immediately. However, newly-renovated and expanded Haohe Park provides the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic and is just a few hundred meters away.
Xing Ning Bridge Roast Chicken definitely serves up a tasty bird, but that’s it. You’ll either want to take it home with you to serve alongside some other things or bring some sides along with you for a more complete al fresco meal. It’s situated in one of Ningbo’s more established areas and just a few minutes away from Cheng Huang Miao to the north and Moon Lake park to the west, making it a nice stop on an afternoon out.
Where: 191 Lingqiao Rd, Haishu, next to the Hanting Express
How Much: 29 RMB for a half-chicken
When to Line Up: Everyday, from 2pm-2:30pm
The People of Ningbo Say
“This is actually my first time coming here, and I’m really excited to try it.” (ed. note: he was first in line by a long shot)
“This place is really special, it’s so good. It has it’s own special flavor…maybe the best chicken in Ningbo.”
“I come here pretty often from far away. The chicken here is really good and I really don’t feel like cooking tonight.”
By Regina Zhou
Photos by Daniel Pigeon