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Best Mambo (Mumbo) Sauce

Which is the best mambo sauce in the DC Area? Best I've had is from Wings 'n' Things on Georgia avenue, but I was wondering if any of you have had any better.

[NOTE: Posted at the request of legal counsel to Select Brands, LLC: MUMBO is a registered trademark of Select Brands LLC. www.selectbrandsllc.com/companyhistor... -- The Chowhound Team ]

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  1. I've also seen it called "Mumble Sauce."

    Isn't Yums on 14th the originator of the sauce? Never could stand the stuff myself. Like expired cherry cough syrup minus the buzz.


      1. I've heard of this "Mambo sauce" ( I'm in Baltimore.....I think its a Washington thing)Could anyone tell me what's in it??

        2 Replies
        1. re: MDicecreamguy

          It's a sweet sauce, not all that far from Duck sauce from those packets in Chinese Restaurants. Mumbo has been around long before Yum's on 14th. There used to be wing shops all over DC.

          1. re: Steve

            Every wing place used to have its own mumbo sauce, some of which I actually liked because they weren't so sickly sweet. It seems like Gresham's Law has made the super-sweet one ubiquitous in recent years, though.

            Supposedly the original version was a barbecue sauce at Argia B's in Chicago; his daughter is apparently now selling that version online (mumbobbqsauce.com). I've been tempted to buy some for a while, but the smallest amount they sell is a half-gallon for $13 after shipping; if anyone else wants to try it and report back, I'd love to hear what you think.

        2. Still gotta go with Levi's. It was the first I've had and it must've indelibly imprinted itself on me.

          1. The best mumbo sauce I've ever had was from:
            Wings N' More Wings
            1839 Benning Road, NE
            Washington, DC 20002
            (202) 397- 7062

            This is the TRUE mumbo sauce, not that cheap, bright red, watered-down, knock-off stuff.
            It is reddish orange color and a thicker consistency like duck sauce.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Renzi

              Just got back from Wings n More Wings. I can confirm that their mambo sauce is the real deal: bright orange (not cough syrup red), with sweet-and-sour undertones (not the usual sickly sweet corn syrupy vibe). Good, whole, meaty wings, fried hard and crisp. $5.50 with french fries. And judging by all the sauce in half-coffee-cup-with-lid carryout stacks, they do a lot of lunch business. If you're in NE near H Street or near RFK Stadium, give them a try. A cut above the usual red mambo sauce.

              1. re: Renzi

                yep...I read the review and went for some mumbo sauce a few minutes ago. Pretty good stuff. Thick (not watered down) and they actually sell 1/2 gallon ($7.50) and 1 gallon (not sure of the price) jugs. It's your typical corner SE DC chicken joint with bullet proof glass...lol. I got 3 little containers ($1.50 and fries for dipping)...

              2. Calm down everyone! Mumbo sauce is something that no one can be credited with inventing. Mainly, because all it is is a hacked-down version of Chinese sweet & sour sauce. Like the real thing, it contains roughly equal parts of sugar and vinegar, with a bit of ordinary ketchup. THAT'S IT! Nothing else. (Boil up a batch and you'll see.)

                The origin of the sauce comes from Chinese carry-out restaurants that were located in inner-city (most African-American) communities. The Chinese owners sold typical fried chicken wings with some of this sauce on the side. The flavor caught on. Walk into any Asian-owned carry-out in D.C. and you'll see this.

                I've seen it spelled mostly as "mumbo". But, I've also seen "mumba", "mombo", "mambo", and "mummbah". It's always essentially the same thing.

                In the mid-1980s, I worked for a company located in a very poor part of D.C. During those 7 years, I learned a lot about inner-city cuisine, including wings with mumbo sauce. It's a real shame that you don't find more of it in the burbs. It's definitely not the healthiest diet in the world. But, it has a lot more character than McDonalds or Wendy's.

                16 Replies
                1. re: Sean D

                  Oh yeah...one more ingredient: Corn starch - to thicken it.

                  1. re: Sean D

                    You forgot the dash of hot sauce and paprika. It's not authentic D.C. Metro mambo sauce without those!


                    1. re: Sean D

                      Sean D,

                      I have to disagree with you re: the origin of mumbo sauce. I grew up in DC and knew of mumbo sauce well before many of the Chinese restaurants started popping up. For me, Mr. Goins, of Goins Carry Out (Georgia Ave & Sheppard St. NW; Petworth Area) had the best chicken wing sandwich with mumbo sauce. I lived about four blocks away and would often walk there for some wings. This was in the mid to late 70's.

                      1. re: T.O. Mac

                        joe h. claims the originators of mambo sauce were Wings and Things near U Street, circa 1963. Bill Cosby used to go here back when he went to Howard U. He said he preferred "the things" to the wings.


                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                          Hey - I was the one to report that :). Wish I had that audio recorded. It was a great little impromptu conversation. He also spoke of the smell of the stuff stinking up the lobby and elevators of nice hotels downtown - something like the Willard (though I don't remember the exact one he mentioned that day).

                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                            I think wings took over from the Miles long sandwich shop at 7th & florida ave?
                            There used to be radio adverts for Miles long, with Pearl your miles long sandwich girl, back then. WOL I think started Adverts for Wings & Things later. @ 63 or 64, getting old so I may be off.
                            But going to Eastern HS, 64 to 67, and crossing the city for parties and games, there seem to have been quite a few shops that offered Mumbo Sauce, as well as Half smokes all over town. the big deal was the fish sandwich, cheesburger sub, steak and cheese wasn't that big yet, fries with Ketchup or mumbo sause, wings and or fried chicken with Mumbo sauce. [BBQ chicken too] KFC was not big then and McDonalds was not all over, yet. Hell, that is where the DC half smoke ledgen arose, they were everywhere.

                          2. re: T.O. Mac

                            Hey T.O.,

                            Funny...that neighborhood is exactly where I discovered wings and mumbo sauce in the early 80s. I also discovered Goins on Georgia Avenue back then. Who knows? Maybe Goins was the first to make something called "mumbo sauce". But, whatever the origin...it's still just hacked down sweet and sour sauce made from vinegar, sugar, water, ketchup, and corn starch. This basic recipe is classic sweet/sour Chinese sauce. Much lighter than typical BBQ-inspired sauces that are more common. But...hey! Bless Mr. Goins heart if he can claim credit for the stuff.

                            BTW - In that same neighborhood, there is an incredibly good fried fish carryout called Cherry's, on Georgia Avenue. (I hope its still there.) Some of the best, fresh, fried fish you'll find anywhere.

                            In fact, there was an awesome BBQ place - The Rib Pit - on 14th Street, across the street from the Giant Food.

                            Bottom Line: Petworth is a great place for good carryout food.

                            1. re: Sean D

                              Sean D and all,

                              I want to state that I was not implying that Goins was the originator of mumbo sauce. I was just stating that he was selling wings with mumbo sauce (like several other carry-outs) way before many of the Chinese carry-outs start popping up.
                              And oh man; I remember Miles Long and Eddy Leonards. Some of the best half smokes in town.

                              Sean D. The Rib Pit was on the corner of 14th and Randolph. Right around the corner on Randolph was the fish market. I lived next door to the fish market. We couldn't even park on our own street on Friday's due to the business. Even Marion Barry would come uptown to get a Croaker or Porgy plate (fried hard of course). If you do an aerial city view and can see the Rib Pit building and the fish market. I lived in the house that was next to the fish market and only separated by the alley (1351 Randolph).

                              Anyone remember back in the day when DC actually had Holly Farms chicken carry-outs? I remember the one over in Fort Totten off North Capitol heading toward Riggs Road.

                              Rib Pit
                              3903 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20011

                              1. re: T.O. Mac

                                I remember Holly Farms. The ones near me turned into Mexican restaurants and veterinarians.


                                I also remember the Pappy Parker's Fried Chicken they used to serve at Hot Shoppes. They didn't have mambo sauce, though. Unfortunately.

                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                  I do remember Pappy Parkers Fried Chicken, alas no mambo sauce... But they did have that great Mighty Mo!

                                  T.O there were two [2] Rib PIt's. The other was on RI ave. The family fell apart and that place went bust.

                                2. re: T.O. Mac

                                  i remember all of this, and funny, I do not remember u, by this name at least. I lived 2 blocks over from the rib pit on taylor and frequented marks market, rib pit, china houseand the fish market. but yes, u could not park on ur street on friday. i do remember that as well.

                                  1. re: T.O. Mac

                                    I remember Eddy Leonard's, specifically the ones on Thomas Circle and over near the Greyhound station around 11th and NY. After church, my brother and I would each get a big ol' Eddy Special and take the bus up to the zoo and go fishing in Rock Creek. Good times.

                                    1. re: T.O. Mac

                                      Who could forget that chicken and wedge potatoes from Holly Farms? It was soooo good. We don't have good places to eat like Miles Long, Thriftys, Hot Shoppes, Supe r Chef, Holly Farm and all those other places we would eat back in the day in DC.

                                      1. re: 4everdc

                                        While not quite Pappy Parker's, the fried chicken and potato wedges at Royal Farms gets the job done. The Marriott that's going in next to the DC convention center is supposed to have a Hot Shoppes in it. The Mighty Mo will be back, but whether the rest of the menu comes back is anyone's gues.

                                    2. re: Sean D

                                      Sorry Sean, Cherry's has been gone for years, it is now a nail shop.

                                    3. re: T.O. Mac

                                      I dont remember wings at the Goins Restaurant but I certainly remember all the other good food they had there.

                                  2. The original Mumbo sauce came from Wings n Things on Georgia & Fla Avenue, N.W. DC. Not in a Chinese restaurant. Nothing nowhere is like the sauce at Wings n Things. That was before chinese carry outs where up in the DC area!!!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ibelieve

                                      Chinese carryouts have been in Washington DC since the early 1890s. The area around the current FBI building used to be Chinatown, before the community was moved north in the 1930s. Several chop suey parlors were located along Pennsylvania Avenue prior to the Federal revitalization of the area in the 1950s, around the same time Wings & Things opened.

                                      1. re: ibelieve

                                        You are so right .Thank you for speaking out
                                        DC's not Chinese

                                        1. re: ibelieve

                                          You are correct. That place was always worth getting off the bus to load up on wings, and stuff. Then trying to bogart that transfer to get home! Half smokes were everywhere in DC in those days, but there was only one Wings & Things.

                                        2. The best mambo sauce I have had is from Smokey's on 14th St, up by the bus barn. Coming from downtown, it's on the left. Coming from Silver Springs, it's on the right. And she will sell you a gallon to take home! Convenient, b/c I'm in NC, and NOBODY know what mambo sauce is down here. Unless they're from DC as well...

                                          15 Replies
                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                              What does wings have to do with it. Who cares.

                                              1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                Because mambo sauce is traditionally served on fried chicken wings. Unless you're up for drinking a glass of mambo sauce.

                                                Great sauce over lousy wings makes about as much sense as coal fired pizza crust with Ragu sauce.

                                                1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                  No you don't. You are suppose to use fried battered chicken pieces. I don't know where you went but "mambo" sauce is not used on wings, that's called wing sauce.

                                                  1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                    Smokey's mambo sauce is DELICIOUS over thier FRIED CHICKEN WINGS!!! I even put my mambo sauce on the potatoes they serve. They don't have french fries. They slice potatoes up, lightly batter, and fry them in this pressure cooker. Delish!!! The lady is so nice. I have NEVER witnessed her being rude at all! And she smiles a genuine smile. Oh! BTW--- I have never had fried battered chicken pieces at all. Up top, from 0ne-4, we eat our mambo sauce on wings.

                                                    1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                      Meh. I guess if you got two people then there you go, I stand corrected. That's okay, I'll stick to eating REAL meat not skin-n-bone wings. lol ;-)

                                                      1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                        Enigma, I'm not trying to change your way of eating. I just wanted to let you know that there are other ways of eating it also. There are only 2 of us on this post who eat mambo sauce on wings. But there is the entire city of DC who eats mambo sauce on wings, fries, and sometimes even our (their b/c i now live in NC) subs. If you have a facebook or other community page, take a poll from your friends and find out how many of them eat mambo sauce on their chicken wings and other foods. If they are not from DC originally, this number could possibly be low.
                                                        P.S. It's okay for you to enjoy mambo sauce on your battered chicken pieces, while I enjoy mine on my bone in chicken wings. No one is right, and we're definitely not wrong. :)

                                                        1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                          Mambo sauce works on any piece of fried chicken, but I've only seen it served with wings. Where do they serve it with whole fried chicken? In Baltimore, they serve wings in what's called a "chicken box," but I don't think that's served with mambo sauce. It usually comes with hot sauce.

                                                      2. re: EnigmaV8

                                                        There used to be quite a few wing shops throughout the city in the mid-70s. My favorite was Sonny's Wings at 15th and Mass, SE. Sonny only sold wings, priced per wing. You could order just one wing with sauce. Like many similar African Americans, Sonny was bought out by a Chinese guy. I think it became Dr. Wu's Wings.

                                                        I would say that, more than any other food, wings were the real hometown DC foodstuff.

                                                        1. re: Steve

                                                          Ever hear of the place Cosby loved called Wings and Things? I heard him call into a radio show once and during the course of the call he mentioned it. He said he would go there when in town to do a show and bring the food back to the hotel, smelling up the elevator. He had some line that the wings were good but the real deal were the Things. I think it was a mumbo sauce place, but not fully sure.

                                                          1. re: Dennis S

                                                            yeah, I've heard of it. I think there are several. Most carryouts in DC have mambo sauce. In fact, I have never been to one that did not. Of course everyone has their fave carryout, but if I'm in SW and my fave carryout is in NW, I'm not driving past 700 carryouts to get to the one I like. You go to the nearest one. And guaranteed, they have mambo sauce. All this talk about wings and mambo sauce is increasing my craving for something I cannot have! Grrrr!!! LOL!!!

                                                            1. re: Dennis S

                                                              There also was a place called WIngs and Tings in Adams Morgan which was run by a couple that made a bit of a splash. They opened a second restaurant, but I never heard of them after that.

                                                              1. re: Steve

                                                                Cos' story was relating back to either the 70's or 80's. He said it was no longer there. I just didn't know if there was any memory of the place on the board here and if anything currently equated to what he was talking about. (or if there is any truth to how good it was in his mind).

                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  Fish, Wings and Tings was a Jamaican place in Adams Morgan that sold great jerk chicken and a fabulous fruit drink that I think was made with ginger and pineapple juice. I think they moved to Silver Spring but both shops are long gone.

                                                        2. re: ms_dking

                                                          I agree with dking that Smokeys on 14th & Decatuer across from the old bus is hands down best place to get Mumbo Sauce! On your wings damn good breakfast too used be cheapest full breakfast in town! Now my Pops says that it used be called Mumble sauce back in 50's when he was teenager! In far Northeast but best place was on Georgia & Harvard chicken & fish boxes delivered all over town! Name escapes closed in 80's though!

                                                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                            Thanks for the link! The resteraunt featured is none other than the infamous "Smokey's" on 14th St across from the bus barn!!!!!

                                                          2. OMG you said it. Growing up in Washington DC in the early 70's I used to go to my boyfriend house off 14th Street and we would walk down to 14th and U to "Wings and Things" and wait inline with the "Pheans" who could node out for 10 min come too and remember to tell the counter person "Could you put some Mumbo Sauce on it"? OMG those were the days and I believe that is the best Mumbo Sauce I have had since then. I believe over the years it has come with wings that I've purchased from various carry-out and nothing comes even close to W&T

                                                            1. What's so special about mixing sugar, vinegar, ketchup, paprika and hot sauce - and boiling with corn starch?


                                                              14 Replies
                                                              1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                Nothing, if you're only reading about it.

                                                                1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                  Exactly. And you could say the same about the ingredients for gun powder.

                                                                    1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                      yeah right - got it - but there isn't much to vary as the ingredients are standard and the 'creative' part after that is only heating.

                                                                      not too afar from 'salt and pepper' - (with the proviso 'fresh ground pepper' :-) )

                                                                      ketchup will certainly be Heinz or comparable, vinegar could be sherry flavored or malt, sugar will be sugar though could be honey, paprika could vary a bit - good Spanish or Hungarian, hot sauce could be from Ancho or Guajillo etc rather than the standard 'only hot' Asian stuff - etc. And of course proportions will change the end result.

                                                                      But overall I'm not seeing what makes the Big Deal about it - where it becomes a 'signature sauce' for a region, etc.

                                                                      1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                        You'd be surprised how different it can taste (good or bad) depending on the levels and brand if the ingredients. It actually takes some experimenting to get the right level of paprika and decent hot sauce that works well.

                                                                        1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                                          This. I've been eating the stuff for thirty years all over town: Yums, Shrimp Boat, Wings & More Wings, and every possible bulletproof Chinese carryout you could think of. There's no one single ur sauce. Some skew ketchupy, some closer to bbq sauce, some more tart and vinegary, others closer to duck sauce, and still others with a bit more heat, some bland, some terrible, some with a bit of hot mustard tang. It's there for the same reason the vinegar slaw is there with the Carolina pulled pork; to help compliment/offset the fattiness of the meat. In this case, it's like the hot sauce on the deepfried buffalo wings, albeit more sweeter than hotter. Is it "just sauce?" Sure. But the wings are better for it.

                                                                          As for why it's a signature sauce for the DC region, it's closely associated with the DC go-go music scene of the '70s and '80s and conversely the harDCore punk scene. After shows, you'd hit the carryout for wings & mambo sauce.

                                                                          1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                            Yep DC girl here born and raised. I am convinced you MUST go into the hood to an old Chinese restaurant to get good wings with mumbo sauce. It can't be made at home unless you know their secrets...and they don't tell lol. Even the ketchup is different. I realized after working in Foggy Bottom that you pretty much have to go to the hood to get good mumbo wings. Unfortunately gentrification is changing that. So it's hard to find but there was a day when we'd argue over which neighborhood made the best lol. I'm glad to have experienced it when I was younger

                                                                            1. re: sweetietray

                                                                              You know you're on the right track if the sign out front says something like "COLDWINEBEERSODA" or "CHINESEFOODSUBSPIZZACHICKENSEAFOOD."

                                                                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                oh yeah!! Is that Eddie's on Bladensburg Road? It was once Eddie Leonard's which made really good subs. My mom talks about going there during her high school years. Those wing places are pretty much gonna be no frills and possibly a tad bit unsightly, in some cases there's no seating. LOL

                                                                        2. re: jounipesonen

                                                                          I'm not convinced anyone is making a BIg Deal of it. In Washington, DC there used to be many wing shops run by and for the African-American community. Mumbo sauce was the sauce of choice. It's part of DC's culinary history, it's African-Amercian history, and it's nice to know about and consume once in a while. Henry's Soul Food is my spot of choice.

                                                                          1. re: Steve

                                                                            The subtext of the article is that white restauranteurs are taking something associated with African-Americans and repackaging it for affluent transplant consumers and tacking on an appropriately exclusive pricetag. So like a lot of Washington Post articles, there's a subtle hint of racebaiting lingering between the lines. One can read this as either "homage" or "swaggerjacking." 

                                                                            I'll stick with Wings & More Wings off Benning Road. That soupçon of Chinese hot mustard keeps me coming back.

                                                                            1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                              Good post!
                                                                              I actually remember the sauce from the late 60's, like Half Smokes, Miles Long on Benniing road in NE used to offer it, as well as Wing's N Things at 7th and Florida ave NW. That was before the "Bullet Proof" Chinese places took over. Even in those days, the taste differed from place to place. Wings, Fries, and yep it did set the meal off, and you could smell it and start others craving.

                                                                        3. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                          Pizza analogy is actually a good one... You can have amazing ones and bad ones both made from just crust, sauce and cheese. But those simply ingredients can vary widely. Plus you can make anything simple by just adding "what's he big deal", but the fact of the matter is no one else in the country is really making it, specifically one similar to a BBQ sauce with this level of paprika.

                                                                          1. re: EnigmaV8

                                                                            Indeed!! THOSE pizza ingredient differences make for all the world!! And that PLUS the HUGE variance in HOW it is 'cooked'(hardly just heated)- contrasts tremendously with ketchup, vinegar, sugar (flour variance in pizza VERY important). I am assuming all ketchup not being Heinz or comparable has been banned by the FDA in US :-)

                                                                            As for the Big Deal I was just amazed how much of a conversation chain was created. (As for me - I like to add some ginger! :-) )