McDonald’s unleashes a limited-edition spin on D.C.’s popular mumbo sauce on Monday, October 9.
McDonald’s tapped D.C. chef Jerome Grant, a 3-year member of the chain’s culinary council, to help develop the dipper dubbed Mambo Sauce. Citywide carryouts slather the red-orange sticky condiment over chicken and fries, so it should come as no surprise the McNugget conglomerate wants to too. Mumbo sauce can be compared to barbecue sauce, but a little sweeter, spicier, or more sour.
“Mumbo sauce, something that is very nostalgic in my D.C. upbringing, was one concept that the council was interested in, so I took the role as their partner in the process of bringing this rich sauce tradition to diners in the U.S.,” says Grant, who was named one of 16 Black chefs changing food in America by the New York Times.
As locals wait to taste test the McDonald’s version for themself, the initial point of contention online seems to be the fact they fudged the name. “First of all it “Mumbo” not “Mambo”. Real #DcNatives know this,” writes @stl_miaggi. (The spelling snafu could have to do with legal issues; in the late 1950s, a Black man named Argia B. Collins registered a trademark for Argia B’s Mumbo Sauce. In 2011, the owner of Capital City Mambo Sauce tried to have that voided but lost the battle in court.)
McDonald’s drops an additional sauce nationwide the same day. Sweet & Spicy Jam, finished with apple cider vinegar, promises a “tongue-numbing Szechuan peppercorn kick” and extra heat from cayenne. Billed as its “first-ever breakfast-inspired dipping sauce,” diners are encouraged to dunk it with a Sausage McMuffin or handheld hash browns. McDonald’s suggests dialing up its Quarter Pounder, McNuggets, McCrispy, fries — or whatever — with the Mambo Sauce.
“Sweet & Spicy Jam and Mambo Sauce live at the intersection of flavor and culture — pulling from decades of rich food history and tradition in local restaurants and home kitchens,” says Tariq Hassan, chief marketing and customer experience officer at McDonald’s USA, in a statement.
McDonald’s hired food content creators to review the incoming dips on their social media channels. TikToker @sharidyonne prefers to pair both in one bite:
A documentary debuting on McDonald’s YouTube channel the same day will showcase “real stories of the sauce makers, restaurateurs, small business owners and fans keeping the culture of Mambo strong,” per a press release. D.C. proper is home to 30 McDonald’s.
Grant, the former chef at National Museum of African American History and Culture, just wrapped up a summertime run of his Afro-Filipino Mahal BBQ pop-up on H Street NE and is making catering and festival appearances while looking for a permanent location. Find his food at Art All Night DC’s Block Party at MLK Library on Saturday, September 30 with chef Rock Harper.