All About Ichiban To-Go in the Jersey City Heights

Ichiban To-Go, located in Jersey City Heights on the corner of 365 Palisade Avenue, has always been a family-owned and operated restaurant. James Chuang opened the businesses, and with the help of his wife Grace and the next generation, his daughter Jess Chuang, they are thriving more today than ever before. We had a chance to speak with Jess, a true renaissance woman, about how Ichican-To-Go was founded, how they’ve adapted during the pandemic, and where she sees the business going.

How Ichiban To-Go Came To Be 

ichiban to go jersey city heights

James Chuang immigrated to New Jersey in 1984 with the hope of achieving the American Dream. In 1997, he and his brothers opened the first location in Princeton, and in 2012 they opened their headquarters in Jersey City that serves as their only location presently. “In Princeton, prior to his brother arriving, my father built the place from scratch. As a little girl, I remember seeing him cement the floors himself and carpeting the store. It took him eight months to finish renovations with some help from professionals! When you’re young, you don’t really understand what’s happening. But as an adult, and looking back, it is amazing how this business was built literally from my father’s hands,” Jess told Hoboken Girl.

ichiban to go jersey city heights

Like anyone who lives or works in Jersey City, Jess and her family love the area for the strong community values. She explains, “The community is probably what I love most about being based here. Everyone who comes in here has been immensely supportive and kind. To be honest, we’re just very lucky. I’m so happy to see so many regulars come in to just say hi and see how everything is going.”

The Menu

ichiban to go jersey city heights

The Ichiban To-Go menu has always been impressive, as they serve up quality sushi and cuisine. Still, the pandemic’s pause provided an opportunity for the business to rethink their strategy and for Jess to up their menu game. 

Before COVID, Ichiban To-Go operated exclusively as a catering company that focused on research and development. “It was always an idea to start up a take-out service/restaurant, but events always took priority and demanded our time and focus, but the idea sort of lived on the shelf so to speak. Once Covid-19 hit, the events industry came to a complete standstill. We tried our best to take this as a shift in focus and see the ‘good’ in the ‘bad’, and with that, we finally plucked that idea off the shelf and dusted it off. With a bit of polish and some elbow grease we renovated our warehouse into Ichiban To-Go,” Jess explains.

Read More: The Yacht Club: An Expansive Seafood Restaurant in Edgewater

ichiban to go jersey city heights

The menu items are a cumulation of their event favorites alongside staples you would find on a typical Japanese restaurant menu. Jess shared, “We like to remain flexible and open to new ideas, as well as listen to our customer requests. So far, we’ve added ramen, vegetarian and vegan options based on customer requests in the area.”

ichiban to go jersey city heights

During quarantine, Jess, like many of us, had to get creative with what she had in her cabinets; enter sushi taco. Patrons can expect innovative and delicious specialty items like sushi pizza, sushi push pops, and a mini sushi taco made of cooked ramen. 

“Our specialty menu items were mainly adapted for our event sushi stations. Events always grant us fun challenges in adapting our items to fit the mood and atmosphere. For instance, Sushi pops were developed on a request for a bar/bat mitzvah, to keep a childlike reminiscent feeling to go with the station. We love coming up with fresh ideas while playing around with recipe development,” says Jess.

Catering Services

ichiban to go jersey city heights

{Photo credit: @ichibanjapanesecatering}

From small dinner parties to large corporate events, Ichiban To-Go provides high-end Asian cuisine stations. Their most popular stations are sushi, dim sum, and Peking duck. She goes on to explain, “What elevates us from other typical catering companies, who serve similar food to ours, is that we focus strictly on catering. Originally, we didn’t have a storefront, but due to COVID, we decided to open a small take out place that features the best of the best on our catering menu.”

The Experience

ichiban to go jersey city heights

The shop is quaint, with a lot of character. They painted it bright red during the pandemic and added a large sticker of their logo that Jess designed herself. Hip hop and pop hits are playing while the flatscreens provide a visual menu complete with photos of the dishes as you wait for your takeout or dine-in.

“While we needed the space for the warehouse for our return to catering, I also wanted to create a small space where people could eat. That’s when I recalled the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Japan where people would go after work, sit down, eat by themselves, and go home. People would go alone or in twos. It was quick, easy, and felt familiar,” Jess recalls, “That’s where the concept of Ichiban To-Go came from, not only is it “to-go” and delivery, but it’s a place where you can come in, feel at home, eat, and go about your day.”

A:C SPACE ichiban to go

{Photo credit: @theacspace}

Jess’s sister, Angela, is an independent fashion designer of A/C SPACE, a genderless apparel line that creates and designs clothing with a sustainable eye while advocating for social change. She started making masks to donate to hospitals at the pandemic’s start to lend a helping hand. With masks still being a necessity, she has continued to produce masks and has made a line of sushi masks to offer at Ichiban-To-Go.

See More: The Best Sushi in Hoboken and Jersey City {According to Your Mood}

ichiban to go jersey city heights

{Photo credit: @ichibanjapanesecatering}

Most charmingly, the countertops are decorated with delicate and beautiful cultural pieces that add a family touch. “My parents are originally from Taiwan and love to make visits back for a little rest and relaxation. They love to explore new local shops and various items they could bring back either for family and friends, their home, and/or the business. Many of the station items we have acquired for events through the years have been original wood-work pieces from small villages, and of course, the oldest piece is something I don’t think we could ever part with, our Maneki-neko cat that was a piece in our first restaurant. It was a good luck gift from a family friend who just returned from a trip to Japan,” says Jess.

The Future of Ichiban To-Go

ichiban to go jersey city heights

{Photo credit: @ichibanjapanesecatering}

With tasty food, innovative culinary designs, and friendly customer service, Ichiban To-Go’s future is undoubtedly bright, and they plan to take it to the next level.

Jess concluded that “Our goal is to continue to introduce Ichiban-To-Go to our community and expand that introduction to surrounding areas. Something that always stuck with each member of our family is the love for bringing people together and making others happy with our food. We’re always eager to see the joyous reactions when our customers try our food.”.

Follow Ichiban-To-Go on Instagram and Facebook for photos of their epic dishes and the latest news.

EMAIL BUTTONS


Written by:

Victoria is HG's Editorial Assistant. She is a fourth-generation Hoboken native, BNR in the Mile Square, and Jersey City. Through playing softball in town for fourteen years, playing the trumpet for the Hoboken High School Redwings Band, and graduating from New Jersey City University, these two cities have a special place in her heart. When she isn’t Style Assisting or volunteering at Symposia Bookstore, Hoboken Fire Museum/Hoboken Historical Museum, she’s exploring everything the Concrete Jungle has to offer. You can catch her at art exhibitions, local festivities, traveling, diving into a new book, thrifting, or indulging in some form of arts and crafts.