Andy Burton, the founder of Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce, tells us how this condiment became a staple in DC culinary history.
Andy Burton and his brother Nyles | Provided by Maitane Romagosa
Andy Burton and his brother Nyles | Provided by Maitane Romagosa
If DC has one flavor, it’s definitely mambo sauce. Just as diverse as the city that created it, mambo sauce is known for its distinctive red-orange color and sweet and sour flavor that may resemble barbecue sauce, Buffalo sauce, or something completely its own. , depending on the restaurant that made the condiment.
For those who are not familiar, mambo sauce can be found on fried chicken, chicken wings, fries, fried rice and everything in between. While the sauce is reliably made from tomatoes, the similarities end with this ingredient – mambo sauce can be sweet, sour, spicy, thick, bright red, or burnt orange. But whatever the differences, it remains a DC kitchen staple.
The condiment is traditionally made by outlets around the DMV area, but some pack the sauce in an effort to expand access to this piece of DC culinary history. The latest is Andy Burton, whose Uncle Dell’s Mambo Sauce has become one of the best-selling versions of the condiment in the region. After having created his company, Andy’s factory, at the age of 5, the young entrepreneur continued to develop his culinary empire under the tutelage of his mother and with the help of his older brother, Nyles. We spoke with Burton to learn more about his business, its connection to mambo sauce, and the driving force behind his desire to continue this long DC culinary tradition.
As a local, how would you describe mambo sauce and its relationship with DC?
Mambo sauce is so DC because that’s where it started. For a long time, DC was the only place you could get it. I have heard stories of people asking their family and friends to buy takeout sauce before visiting them out of town. My Uncle Greg is about 50 now, and he talks about being at different take out and finding different foods. It seems there was never a conversation about life in this era that didn’t include a story about picking up take out.
I think the mambo sauce is also linked to being a city kid from the 80’s and 90’s. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t very impressed when my mom and dad brought it up ago. long time. It took me getting older and seeing the level of change in DC happening before my eyes to really appreciate how they felt and why the sauce was so personal to them.
What’s your story with mambo sauce? Do you remember the first time you had it?
Most of my early experiences eating mambo sauce were with my maternal grandmother. She would go to a delivery in Bladensburg, MD, and order wings. They always had mambo sauce on them. I was however a picky eater and wasn’t always a fan of the sauce or what it covered – I was that kid who didn’t like to mix things up!
Later, mambo sauce became a staple in our house, but I didn’t have the full take-out experience because mom made it at home. I remember her offering jars of it at the end of the holidays because she only put it on fried chicken that we haven’t eaten that often.
When did you start making mambo sauce? What was the inspiration?
I started making mambo sauce myself in 2015 for a school assignment. I have been homeschooled all my life, and a mission actually gave me the impetus I needed to start my “business” when I was five. In 2015, I turned to my mom for new inspiration for this updated mission, and she explained the concept of franchise to me – I interpreted the concept as a way for people to start a new business. without necessarily having an original idea of their own. . My mom asked me what I thought I could get through in our home and create my own. I chose the mambo sauce.
It was an easy choice. Many of my friends and family already knew and loved our mambo sauce. I decided this would be a good product for my business project. But my mom didn’t just hand over her recipe – instead, she made me watch her make it batch after batch. I then had to do the math and adjustments to make a jackpot.
After perfecting my own recipe, my mom had me make flyers, design a logo, and create a little business plan, all. I even had to do a mock sales presentation at my table with home school moms we knew to give their thoughts on how I could improve ahead of the big sale day. It paid off. When we went to the first pop-up shop, I completely sold out within hours. I had about 30 jars I think.
So how did you make it a full-fledged business?
When I decided I wanted to start a serious business the only thing that came to my mind was to bottle this mambo sauce. The reaction I have received over the years from our family and friends about their love of the sauce made it easier for me. I stuck with the name I had used since I was five, Andy’s Factory, and incorporated the company in August 2019.
Seems like Andy’s Factory is really a family affair, and we’ve heard your brother plays a big part. What is it like working with your older brother?
Working with my older brother Nyles (or Bee) is perfect for me. He is very supportive and works on the more administrative functions of the business which require sitting at a desk and concentrating more. This is something that is difficult for me to do. I have to keep moving. So we balance ourselves. It’s also good to have her support because I’m still doing schoolwork and it’s been a few hectic days here and there.
Now, at almost two years old, I can say that I’m starting to feel like I’m working with both brothers! My little brother David is 8 years old and the best taste tester ever. He also likes to accompany me during deliveries when he can. I’m glad to have them both around.
What is the story behind the Uncle Dell’s name? Is he also a member of the family?
My little sister Blaire and I are only six years apart, but when she was little she called me Uncle Andy. I really love little kids and have always been very considerate of her which I guess is why I got the nickname. I named my initial sauce Uncle Andy’s mumbo sauce. However, when I presented my ideas to my Creative Director, the team alerted me to the copyright issue for Uncle Andy’s.
Still, I wanted to keep the notion of “uncle” something with the sauce because I want all of our products to have a family theme. I changed the name of the sauce to “Uncle Dell’s” in honor of my maternal grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Wardell Guyton, better known as Poppy. Our family has had a lot of ups and downs recently, and I really wanted to honor a great man in my life.
I also want those who love our sauce to feel like part of the family. Everything I have done and planned so far is really something that we have truly enjoyed in our Burton family for years.
What makes your mambo sauce different from other sauces?
Uncle Dell’s mambo sauce is different from other mambo sauces because of its versatility. It can be used much more than just traditional chicken wing dipping sauce – it is excellent on a variety of meats, as a vegetable dip, seafood sauce and more. I have the impression that it is gourmet mambo.
In all fairness, mambo sauce varies from dish to dish, which is part of its beauty. My mom’s personal favorite, for example, came from a restaurant near Howard University, where she attended college. Everyone had their favorite and in the end, it’s all the differences in the sauce that make the whole mambo experience authentic.