Nov 3, 2023 - Food and Drink

How McDonald's Mambo Sauce stacks up against Chicago's mild sauce

McDonald's BBQ sauce, next to plate of BBQ sauce, next to plastic cup of BBQ sauce, all sitting on brown paper bag.

Mambo, Mumbo and mild sauce competition. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

McDonald's is celebrating Washington, D.C.'s beloved Mumbo Sauce by offering its own version — dubbed "Mambo Sauce" — nationwide for a limited time.

The intrigue: Despite its association with D.C., the sauce was actually invented in Chicago, circa 1950, by barbecue purveyor Argia B. Collins, whose brand is still made here and holds rights to the name.

Flashback: Its ubiquity in D.C. takeout joints got one maker there to suggest the name was up for grabs. A trademark appeals board, however, did not agree.

Yes, but: How does Mumbo Sauce stack up against Chicago's mild sauce? I wanted to know.

  • So I pitted Argia B.'s Original Mumbo Sauce (sold at Jewel) against Mambo Sauce and mild sauce from Harold's Chicken on Wilson Avenue. Check out our Instagram for a full review.
Chicken nuggets next to bottle of Mumbo sauce next to french fries and chicken wings.
McNuggets with Mambo Sauce, locally made Mumbo Sauce and Harold's wings with mild sauce. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios.

The verdict: McD's Mambo Sauce boasts a nice, fiery finish, but it's too gloppy and sweet.

  • Mumbo's got nice smoke but not enough heat and too much sugar.
  • Harold's mild sauce, however, is just right. A perfect balance of sweet, sour and salty to cut the richness of its juicy chicken. Harold's for the win!

The caveat: Our Axios D.C. colleague Cuneyt Dil reports that, like their mild counterparts, mumbo sauces vary from place to place but that the Golden Arches version isn't quite right.

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