The Gatsby Sandwich

Unwrapping Cape Town’s signature super loaf

When most people hear the word ‘Gatsby’, they think mysterious millionaire, equally mysterious green light, flapper dresses and broken American dreams. When Capetonians hear it, they think monstrous foot-long sandwich heaving with hot chips, dripping with sauce and crammed with everything but the kitchen sink.

So the two concepts are a little different, but they do have one connection (that is, aside from the fact that they’re both associated with decadent excess): the legendary stacked roll that’s become an icon of Mother City fast food outlets and a staple of many a local resident’s diet was, it appears, actually named after the famed Fitzgerald tale.

The story of the loaf’s accidental beginnings goes something like this: once upon a time, way back in 1976, there was an Athlone-based fish shop owner named Rashaad Pandy who had nothing to feed a few day workers who’d been helping him clean up a piece of property.  Being a resourceful individual, he combined what he had – a round Portuguese roll, polony, slap chips and achar – and sliced the creation into four so they could all enjoy a piece.

On tasting the roll, one of the labourers, Froggie, who was full of quirky sayings and had recently watched the film The Great Gatsby at the Athlone Theatre, gleefully exclaimed, “this is a Gatsby smash” (meaning, it’s a winning dish), and the name just stuck. The following day, Rashaad put out a few of the all-in-one buns for sale in his store, and before long, they had taken off at a pace he describes as “unreal”.

Today, the round roll has been replaced with a long loaf for the sake of easy cutting (Gatsbies are meant to be shared amongst several people), and many new versions have evolved – there’s everything from a masala steak and cheese option to a calamari and fish combo to a vienna, Russian sausage and polony beast called the Full House (no Olsen twins involved). But what remains is the fast food hit’s popularity: for many locals, especially those living on the Cape Flats, this colossal sandwich is not just a meal; it’s a way of life, a cultural symbol and an important part of their heritage.

But what is it exactly that makes the Gatsby so damn irresistible? We did a bit of investigation and came up with the following explanations for the takeaway dish’s fame.

FIVE REASONS THE CAPE TOWN GATSBY IS SO GREAT

1. It can feed a group of four for far less than even a KFC Family Meal. Saying that eating a Gatsby is economical is like saying that politicians are kind of crooked – it’s a major understatement. Even the most decked out of the lot rings in at no more than R100, and considering one sandwich would fulfill the whole von Trapp troupe, that means everyone must merely throw in some small change, at most.

2. It’s like heaven when you’re hungover. Nothing soaks up the after-effects of a night spent dancing Gangnam Style and drunk-dialling ex-lovers quite like a colossal bread roll soaked in grease, sauce and salt. Forget Panado, coffee or bloody marys; hello great Gatsby.

3. It’ll sort you out one time if you’re an endurance athlete. We’re talking a foot-long white loaf stuffed with deep-fried chips. In other words, Gatsbies take carbo-loading to the next level. You’ll be able to run an ultra-marathon on the energy stored in these wonderfully unhealthy monsters – that’s if you don’t pass out from the cholesterol overload first.

4. It fits snugly in the overhead compartment of an aeroplane. The following scenario is apparently commonplace in our quirky country: son or daughter relocates from Cape Town to Johannesburg for work but misses Gatsby more than mom. If mom visits without Gatsby (x5), she’s a gonner. So, it’s certainly a good thing that despite their size, these can’t-live-without treats are travel friendly.

5. It complements the hood of any car. That’s right, regardless of the colour of your vehicle or the filling of your Gatsby, the mega sandwich is bound to match perfectly with your bonnet, which, according to veteran consumers, is the number one spot to unwrap and enjoy.

In line with the last point, we thought we’d consult the pros – regular Gatsby eaters in our social media community – about other places and ways this mammoth loaf should be devoured to shed more light on the culture around its consumption. Here’s what a few of our Facebook and Twitter followers had to say:

THE BEST TIME, PLACE AND WAY TO ENJOY A GATSBY

  • @NattyGov: In your car. With friends. At 3am. While sharing a litre of Frulati.
  • @WhoAreEthan21: With your hands, anytime, anywhere!
  • Fatiema Baradien Khan: After a night out painting the town red – it’s an epic way to end an evening.
  • Grant Boere Meyer: On a Saturday morning with Cabana peach juice.
  • @BerrySolo: When you’re really hungry, especially on a cold day, with Cabana or Tropika juice.
  • Jannie Kirsten: On the rocks at sunset, preferably in Mouille Point.
  • @akeena_ognimod: With an ice-cold Coke!

Surely by this point we’ve got you lusting after one of these quintessentially Capetonian loaves. So, we’re finishing off with an overview of popular places that those in the know go to get their Gatsby.

GATSBY RESTAURANTS AND TAKEAWAY SHOPS IN CAPE TOWN

The Golden Dish
Drawcard:
A personal touch is what sets this long-time, family-run institution apart. That, and the fact that the small store sells an incredibly diverse range of Gatsbies, from a Goulash Full House to a Russian Sausage, Cheese and Perinaise mix.
Shop 1 | Block 1 | Gatesville Shopping Centre | Cnr. Klipfontein and Hazel roads | Athlone | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 633 7864

Super Fisheries
Drawcard:
This fish and chips shop in Athlone is owned and run by Rashaad Pandy, the inventor of the original Gatsby, so you can expect authentic subs here. The store focuses on fish and calamari-filled super sandwiches, but it still sells Rashaad’s first combo: polony, chips and achar.
63 Old Klipfontein Road | Athlone | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 696 9833

Cosy Corner
Drawcard:
Founded in 1973, this family-run takeaway store is the only one in Cape Town that makes a flame-grilled rump steak Gatsby, and it’s also particularly popular for its basting sauce, which is made from olive oil, honey and the freshest ingredients.
119 Ottery Road | Wynberg | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 797 2498

Mariam’s Kitchen
Drawcard:
Not only is this super sandwich hotspot very conveniently located (there are two stores in the heart of the CBD), but it also makes a killer (and perfectly spiced) Full House Steak Gatsby – think masala steak, eggs, chips, cheese, braised onion and salad.
31 Heerengracht Street | Foreshore | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 421 3636
101 St Georges Mall | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 423 0772

Farm Stall & Takeaway
Drawcard:
Claiming to make “the best Gatsbies in town”, this little takeaway joint in Cape Town’s Ottery focuses on quality ingredients and irresistible flavour combinations.
52 Ottery Road (next to Makro) | Ottery | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 704 2211

Bona Fast Food
Drawcard:
Open until 3am on weekends, this fast food haunt sources top ingredients, mixes their own sauces and makes all its Gatsbies from scratch. Be sure to try the chicken and cheese combo or the vienna sausage and polony option.
32 Victoria Road | Grassy Park | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 705 3015

Aneesa’s
Drawcard:
This takeaway outlet – there’s one in Wynberg and one in Montague Gardens – serves a wide range of both traditional and more innovative Gatsbies, all filled with freshly fried chips and a special secret spice. Conveniently, the store takes online orders; though, it doesn’t deliver.
86 Ottery Road | Wynberg | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 797 5682
Cnr Esso Road and Montague Drive | Montague Gardens | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 551 7123

By Dayle Kavonic

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Keen to try another of South Africa’s culinary classics? Pop in to Gourmet Boerie restaurant in Cape Town for a souped-up boerewors roll served with style.

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