“Listen Joe, you cannot have a discussion about D.C. food and escape the influence of Mambo sauce on D.C. culture. Take an informal poll of district natives on what they consider to be D.C. food and you will find the recurring answer to be, chicken wings with fries covered in Mambo sauce.

Mambo sauce is a quintessential part of the D.C. experience and a cornerstone of the ever popular carry out cuisine. Mambo sauce has a distinct flavor composition, but is used as a blanket term for many different variations. Some people like it more sweet. Some people like it more spicy. And seniors are never satisfied; as the contemporary versions pale in comparison to the original Wings and Things recipe.

According to district natives, following the disappearance of black-owned chicken joints, Asian-Americans took advantage of the void; duplicating the chicken recipes and replicating the treasured condiment. The majority of mambo sauce in the district is still consumed on chicken wings and fries purchased from local carry outs like Yum’s or Eddies.

Ironically, mumbo sauce is not an original D.C. invention. A Chicago-based company called Select Brands actually owns the trademark to the word “mumbo” and Chicago’s Argia B’s Bar-B-Q restaurants claims to have been selling the condiment since the 1950s. This is almost a decade before the sauce gained notoriety at the famous Wing and Things.

This came as a surprise to Arsha Jones, district native and founder of Capital City LLC, when she lost a trademark battle with Select Brands in 2013 for her Capital City Mumbo Sauce brand. Jones argued that mumbo was a general term like aspirin or Kleenex.

But, you lackin if you think a small technicality would stop or decrease popularity of mambo sauce in the nation’s capitol. After loosing the trademark battle, it appears Capital City LLC simply swapped the “u” for an “a” and kept it pushing. Woo Wap Da Dam. Today, you can find Capital City Mambo Sauce at retail giants like Walmart and 7-Eleven as well as a host of local grocery chains.

In Chicago, the sauce’s popularity has waned. Five wings and fries with extra mambo sauce is the foundation of the Washingtonian food pyramid.

Despite the law, D.C. and Chicago natives alike, live by a higher street code. So let’s call a cultural truce. In the words of Shy Glizzy, “Where we come from n-ggas don’t play, Southside n-gga on the North movin’ weight, Yeah, we might slide on a n-gga broad day, Them youngins, they be thuggin’.” Mambo sauce belongs to us cousin. On muvas.

Chicago has deep-dish pizza, hot dogs with tomatoes and pickles, and Jazz. DC has mambo sauce, Go-Go, and warmer winters. Mumbo sauce hailed from Chicago, but now it belongs to the district. Keep mumbo. We will take mambo.



Ever wonder what’s in that magical sauce we call Mambo? We got up with Chef Dash of Dash Gourmet and he gave us his take. It’s so simple you can make it at home.

Photo by Lafayette Barnes (@lafayetteiv)

Check it out.


1/2 cup Ketchup
1/2 tbsp Hot Sauce
1/4 cup Vinegar
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 tbsp Paprika
1/3 cup Water


Combine all ingredients except water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Using a whisk or spoon, stir the ingredients lightly for one minute until there is one sauce. Let simmer for 3-5 minutes, then add water to thin out. Stir and turn off heat. Let cool for 5 mins and serve or store for later.

Voila! Let me get a uhhhh!!!! Stamp! Now you just need to learn how to fry chicken!

Follow @dash_gourmet

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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