Usually when I write about local food, the term is a reference to the ingredients. The actual dishes could come from anywhere. But as a newbie to the DC area, it’s important to me to try our regional favorites. That’s why it was high time to hit Dave’s Seafood & Subs in Chantilly. The goals: to sample both my first mumbo sauce and my first fried whiting. Both are staples of African-American cuisine in our area, but neither is as readily available as one might hope.
Dave’s is currently takeout-only, though there are a couple of tables out front for diners who just can’t wait to tear into their fried chicken gizzards or crab sticks. I ordered three jumbo chicken wings, which are served with “mombo” sauce. The spelling adjustment is because a Chicago company holds the trademark to the name “Mumbo Sauce.”
So what is it? On first taste, I thought of fruity British Cumberland sauce. But after a few bites, it was clear that this was essentially Chinese-American sweet-and-sour (the red color is even the same), with a bit more vinegar and a pleasant Sriracha burn. The chicken wings that it dressed? Meaty and fried to a fine crackle. The fries that came on the side, though, were out of a freezer bag and a bit soggy.
I got my whiting on a sub roll. The fish was ultra-thin, but still had a stronger marine flavor than I anticipated. It definitely wasn’t the local equivalent to my native mild New England perch that I’d anticipated. The cornmeal coating was crunchy enough to withstand the juices of the vegetables on the sandwich, as well as a swipe of mayo.
I can’t say that it’s a meal that I’ll be craving the same way I drool over, say, Korean barbecue, but when it’s time for hefty wings and tangy, spicy sauce, I know where to get a taste of my new home. // 4008-A Walney Road, Chantilly
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