A select few in Madison will have the chance to get their hands on McDonald’s Szechuan dipping sauce Saturday after an adult cartoon kicked off a pop culture fandom around the condiment.
The McDonald’s at 4500 University Ave. is one of only five restaurants throughout Wisconsin that will have a limited supply of Szechuan sauce on Saturday. Nearly 20 years after a promotional run, the sauce re-emerged in the cultural hemisphere from Cartoon Network Adult Swim’s popular television show “Rick and Morty.”
Starting at 2 p.m., customers will have the chance to select a Szechuan sauce packet with an order of buttermilk chicken tenders, said Carrie Barndt, who owns the University Avenue location.
“We expect there to be a lot of enthusiasm around this one,” she said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The sauce ran as a limited-time offer in 1998 to promote the Disney movie “Mulan.”
“Rick and Morty” follows Rick, a frequently intoxicated, nihilistic mad scientist, and his grandson Morty, a perpetually anxious teenager, on their adult-themed adventures across planets, universes and dimensions.
During an unannounced season premiere on April 1, Rick devised a plan to rescue his family and destroy the “Galactic Federation,” but eventually revealed his actions were driven by a personal scheme to get a hold of “that Mulan McNugget sauce.”
The McDonald’s-inspired gag quickly took hold within the show’s fan base and across social media platforms.
A search for 4500 University Ave., Madison, on Google Maps shows two results: one for McDonald’s and another for “Szechuan Sauce Place.”
Barndt chuckled when finding out about the business’ alternative title.
She said she was informed earlier this week about Saturday’s promotion and isn’t sure how many 0.8-ounce sauce packets the location will get until they receive the shipment either late Friday or early Saturday.
There is a one-packet limit per person, and the chicken tenders must be purchased inside the store.
“In the past, we’ve had experiences where people do start showing up early, so we will be giving out numbers to people,” Barndt said.
Customers will be informed once the number of tickets for the sauce run out, she said, and extra staff will be on hand.
An Omaha restaurant is expected to have only 40 packets, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
Barndt, who worked in McDonald’s corporate realm during the 1998 promotion, said she hasn’t seen “Rick and Morty” but intends to watch the sauce-themed episode.
In a statement Thursday, the fast-food giant describes it as a “savory and slightly sweet sauce with hints of soy, ginger, garlic, and slight vinegar notes.”
Customers can choose a custom poster of one of 10 dipping sauces, Szechuan included, in lieu of selecting the rare condiment.
Fewer than 1,000 restaurants across the United States will take part in the sauce and poster promotion, according to McDonald’s.
Badger State Szechuan sauce chasers can also find it in Beloit at 45 State St. and in Milwaukee at 1614 E. North Ave., 2455 W. Wisconsin Ave. and 6631 W. North Ave.
In July, McDonald’s sent a jug of Szechuan sauce to the show’s co-creator Justin Roiland after finding it in “a dimension where it’s always 1998.” A tweet showing pictures of the jug and a customized carrying case garnered more than 342,000 likes and 142,000 re-tweets.
The company followed that up with a giveaway of three more half-gallon jugs, one of which went up for auction on eBay where popular electronic music artist Deadmau5 purchased it for $15,000.
The sauce, which ran as a limited-time offer to promote “Mulan,” was later glorified on Cartoon Network.