A meal that’s more than the sum of its often-considerable parts, the Gatsby is a Mother City institution. We investigate its origins.
“What!? You’ve lived in Cape Town for eight years and never had a Gatsby?” My Cape Town-born-and-bred companion was horrified. The thing is, I’d never been entirely certain what a Gatsby actually was, so I set out not just to taste Cape Town’s quintessential fast food, but to discover its origin.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO ATHLONE
When it comes to tracing the history of the Gatsby, all roads do indeed lead to this Cape Town suburb and, while it may be home to plenty of takeaways serving the giant sandwich, there’s only one that claims to have invented it.
It’s 10am, the arranged appointment time with Rashaad Pandy, the owner of Super Fisheries and creator of the Gatsby. His shop is already heaving and the deep-fat fryers are working flat out.
In the mid-1970s, Rashaad hired some labourers to help clear a plot of land. “At the end of the day, I wanted to give them something to eat, but all I had was chips, polony and atchar, so I put it all together on a roll,” he says. Rashaad was running a takeaway at the time. A man known as Froggie, who sampled the sandwich, proclaimed it to be a “Gatsby smash”. Some think he meant the sandwich was as big a hit as the recently released movie, others think he likened the unhealthy excess of the sandwich to the excesses the book and movie are known for.
Either way, the Gatsby was born and became a foodie symbol of Cape Town. It quickly morphed into a colossal sandwich that’s designed to be shared: a full Gatsby can easily feed a family of four – or two friends suffering from hangovers – for as little as R50. Toppings include anything from polony to calamari, eggs, masala steak, boerewors or tandoori chicken, but one thing the Gatsby always features is hot chips, smothered in salt and vinegar.
5 PLACES TO GRAB A GREAT GATSBY IN CAPE TOWN
Super Fisheries, Athlone
The original home of the Gatsby pumps six days a week – people drive from all corners of the city to sample what one regular patrons calls “the best chips in town”.
Cosy Corner, Wynberg
Trading for 43 years, the family-run eatery serves up huge Gatsbys to eat in or take away. Try the chargrilled steak or tandoori chicken options.
Golden Dish, Athlone
There are 33 different versions of Gatsby on the menu here, presenting quite a challenge when ordering!
Mariam’s Kitchen, City Bowl
Considered to be the best place to grab a Gatsby in the city centre. Sample the curry Gatsby, or if you (and at least three friends) are famished, try the steak topped with cheese and four eggs.
Lekker Vegan, East City
Even the local vegan movement is getting in on the action. If you’re looking for a slightly healthier Gatsby, the vegan versions come with plenty of salad along with crispy chips and a meat substitute.
WORDS Lucy Corne