Find your next meal at these Asian restaurants in and around Campustown


Mikayla Alt

Sushi made at Ichiban, an Asian-style restaurant modeled after izakaya drinking pubs.

More than 11% of Ames residents identify as Asian, which is around 7,950 people, according to World Population Review. As the second-highest demographic in the area, Asian culture is increasingly growing within Campustown.

Asian Restaurants are emerging across Ames as the city continues to expand, and many entrepreneurs are sharing their love for their favorite Asian cuisine.

Guan Wang, the owner of Ichiban, is the son of two other restaurant owners in town. His mother, Chunling Lu, owns the Wok N Roll on Welch Avenue, while his father, Anfu Wong, owns Le’s Restaurant on Colorado Avenue.

“There are a lack of Japanese places around here,” Guan Wang said. “I was like, ‘Let’s create a small space that serves fairly authentic food.’”

Guan Wang remodeled Ichiban’s building from its former iteration called Fighting Burrito to match izakaya drinking pubs, which are crammed and serve as a casual place to meet friends. Guan Wang said Ichiban’s small size creates the atmosphere he was looking for, which is a big part of what students enjoy about the restaurant.

“I like the exclusive feeling, and I think students really like that,” Wang said. “It’s like a homey atmosphere where people can chat, a lot like the Japanese restaurants, izakayas.”

At first, Wang did not know what he wanted to put in the building’s space after Fighting Burrito closed.

“It’s a funny story,” Wang said. “My dad was in here doing construction, and a Japanese couple walked by. They were like, ‘Oh, what are you guys going to do here?’”

Wang said he jokingly told the couple that he would maybe make the space into a Japanese restaurant. The couple told Wang he should go through with that plan and call the restaurant Ichiban.

In Japanese, Ichiban means first place, or champion. The couple never gave Wang a reason for their suggestion, but Wang stuck with it and ran with their idea.

Ichiban has a large number of Asian students as their clientele. James Winters, the head chef and general manager at Ichiban, believes this is due to the restaurant’s menu and atmosphere.

“We have traditional ramen, and it’s very popular–a favorite of many of the Asian population,” Winters said. “We have comfort food and a very easy going atmosphere.”

Ichiban was featured in the New York Times in 2021 for their crab rangoon mozzarella sticks. Winters and Guan Wang are considering mass producing and selling them as frozen snacks in local food stores.

Thai Kitchen is another restaurant that serves Asian-focused cuisine in Campustown. It is located just around the corner on Chamberlain Street, across from AJ’s Ultra Lounge.

Thai Kitchen offers many unique dishes from Thailand and East Asia. Having been in business for over 20 years, it has created its own atmosphere in Ames.

“We like to cook; we are owned by family and put all of our effort into the restaurant,” co-owner Picha Charoenkad said.

Pad thai, or pad see ew, are ordered the most, but half of their customers are Asian and will generally order Thai beef soup or Thai beef chicken, according to Charoenkad.

Across from Friley Hall’s archway lies Joy’s Mongolian Grill, another Asian restaurant staple in Campustown. Joy’s offers reasonably priced Chinese food, which makes it more friendly for college students on a budget.

“Asian students really like the small hot pot, and they generally have the more traditional Chinese food like Szechuan style kung pao chicken,” said Alta Ceo, a staff member at Joy’s Mongolian Grill. “For American students, they really like the Lo Mein or house special fried rice.”

There are other Asian-style restaurants in Campustown such as Taste Place, Wok N Roll, Little Taipei and Blue Fish Hawaiian Poke Bowl, and each one has become part of the community.

“Growing up my family would probably go out to eat weekly at a Chinese buffet [in Ames] called King Buffet,” said Autumn Dunham, an Iowa State alumna who graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s in integrated studio arts. “In high school, my friends and I went to the mongolian grill almost every Monday. We had our usual table, even.”

Many people, like Kaylinn Nugent, had Asian cuisine growing up, and it has become a staple comfort food for them. Nugent is a regular patron at May House Cuisine, a Chinese restaurant on Lincoln Avenue.

“When I was young, we would go to the China Buffet,” Nugent said. “I always got the same thing, but I feel like we [Nugent and her family] went when we had special occasions or a family night out. I really enjoy Chinese food.”

Others wanted to learn about the culture, like Jacie Irvin, an Ames resident who studied at Iowa State in 2012.

“[Asian food] was a cuisine I didn’t get often because my mom didn’t like to try new things, and I grew up admiring Asian culture and wanted to experience it through food,” Irvin, a semi-regular patron at Ichiban, said.