Eating Gatsbys in Salt River, Cape Town

by | Sep 21, 2022 | Cape Town, Food and Drink, Western Cape | 14 comments

CORRECTION: Since publishing this post yesterday, I have been informed by many angry members of the Gatsby Society Facebook group that Gatsbys are NOT sandwiches and should never, ever, under any circumstances, be referred to as such, upon pain of death. I hereby submit my humble apology for this insult to the Gatsby Gods. (Wikipedia is my excuse — they’ve also got it wrong.) I have carefully scrubbed the word “sandwich” from the title and remainder of the post. Sorry, Gatsby fans!

Last weekend I fulfilled a long-held dream of eating and documenting Gatsbys in Cape Town.

Heather and Dee eating Gatsby sandwiches
My friend Dee and I stuffing ourselves with Gatsbys. (Photo: Thorsten Deckler)

The Gatsby is Cape Town’s version of Joburg’s kota or Durban’s bunny chow: an entire meal surrounded by bread, designed to take away. But while kotas and bunny chows are served vertically in hollowed-out bread loafs, Gatsbys are served horizontally in fat rolls the length of a human arm. There are no side dishes because all the food — chips, meat, cheese, egg, salad, sauce, and whatever else — is contained inside the bread (at least until a person picks up the Gatsby to eat it, at which time half the ingredients quickly wind up on/in the person’s hands, face, and hair).

The Gatsby was invented in 1976 by Rashaad Pandy, a fish-and-chip shop owner in Athlone, Cape Town. Apparently the name is a reference to the Great Gatsby film (although I’m not sure exactly why), which had screened at an Athlone cinema around that time.

Like the other classic South African take-away meals mentioned above, the Gatsby is believed to have emerged as a response to apartheid, when segregation prevented people of color from living or eating in the places where they worked. People needed cheap, filling, portable food at the end of a long workday, and Gatsbys (or bunny chows, or kotas) did the trick.

I’ve eaten many bunny chows and kotas over the years but somehow Gatsbys had eluded me — probably because they aren’t available anywhere in Joburg, as far as I know. But it finally happened on my most recent trip to Cape Town, after stumbling upon Continental Take-Aways.

Gatsbys from Continental Take-Aways

Thorsten and I discovered Continental Take-Aways while staying with my friend Dee in Salt River, a super interesting Cape Town suburb that deserves its own blog one of these days. We first went into Continental for a quick breakfast (I highly recommend the samoosas and koesisters), but noticed the wide selection of Gatsbys and decided to come back with Dee for lunch a couple of days later.

Outside Continental Take-Aways
Outside Continental Take-Aways.

Continental has incredible decor, including disco-y lighting and a huge, immaculately kept fish tank. I loved everything about the shop, but couldn’t fully capture the vibe during our second visit because there was loadshedding. (I didn’t have my camera the first time.) You’ll get the idea though.

Inside Continental Take-Aways
The Continental counter.
Continental Take-Aways seating area
Dee waiting for our food in the colorful seating area.
Inside Continental Take-Aways
Loadshedding vibes at Continental Take-Aways. Normally there are a lot more lights but it still looked great.

Continental has about 20 different kinds of Gatsbys, but we went straight for two of the designer combinations at the bottom of the menu: the “Decoder” Gatsby with steak and egg, and the “M Net” Gatsby with steak and cheese. (There was also a Dagwood Gatsby with steak, egg, AND cheese but that seemed like too much.)

Gatsby sandwiches menu at Continental Take-Aways
The full Gatsby menu.

Gatsbys can be ordered in full or half portions. We decided to order one full Gatsby and one half, since there were three of us and we and figured each person could eat a half. But this was a mistake: One full Gatsby would have been more than plenty for the three of us.

When the meal came, we all got really excited and there was an insane feeding frenzy and I somehow didn’t manage to get photos of everything. But again, you’ll get the idea.

Photograph of wrapped Gatsbys
My failed attempt at photographing Thorsten with the two Gatsbys, both of which extend outside the range of my wide-angle lens.
Eating Gatsbys
The creation in front of me is the half Decoder Gatsby. The M Net was twice as big, but Thorsten and Dee started chowing soon after the paper came off and I didn’t get around to photographing the full thing.
Gatsby sketch
But who needs a photo when you have a fantastic, full Gatsby sketch by @thethinking_hand?
Gatsbys
The Gatsby has got to be the most difficult food on earth to take pictures of. But if you look carefully (you probably don’t want to), you’ll see chips (fries), steak, egg, and sauce in there. There was also some lettuce and tomato.

It’s hard to pinpoint what made these Gatsbys taste so good. But I think the tangy, chilli-based sauce — which infused the chips, meat, egg, and everything else — was the key ingredient (and also the thing that made the Gatsbys so hard to photograph). The sauce tasted like spicy magic. Abdul, Continental’s owner, would not reveal how they make it. The bread was also particularly crisp and tasty.

All three of us loved both Gatsbys but agreed the steak-and-egg Decoder was the better of the two.

Thorsten holding Gatsbys
Thorsten double-fisting the Gatsbys.

Thorsten, a super-human eating machine, managed to eat a complete half Gatsby. Dee and I, who also have healthy appetites, each ate half of a half plus a couple of bites. We also had three delicious onion and chilli snacks called dhaljees, which we received on the house. I somehow neglected to photograph those, too.

Heather eating a Gatsby
I did a better job of eating than photographing.

I felt completely comatose after this meal and I did not eat dinner that night (a great rarity for 2Summers). My appetite didn’t fully return until the following afternoon.

I can’t wait for my next visit to Salt River. I want to try the Curry Gatsby next time, but I will try to limit my intake to half of a half of a half.

Continental Take-Aways is 350 Victoria Road, Salt River. Call 021-448-2812.

14 Comments

  1. Albert

    I love the colorful decor in the shop! Feels like being in a cartoon! Especially with the baseball bat sized Gatsbys..lol

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I know, it’s the best!

      Reply
    • 2summers

      Oh wow, thank you! I will investigate this immediately.

      Reply
    • Laaiqah moses

      Heard and seen alot of the industry bakery online.. should consider opening a store in cpt.

      Reply
      • 2summers

        I’m going to check them out for sure! I went there years ago but didn’t know about the Gatsby then.

        Reply
  2. timmee

    sad to have missed seeing you! we are mid-renovation and hella grumpy

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I get that! One of these days I will come to Cape Town for more than three days and actually have time to visit all the people who I want to see. xxx

      Reply
  3. AutumnAshbough

    See, this is my problem, I can’t wait to eat and do not photograph beforehand.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah, I have less and less patience with each passing year. I’ve been doing this too long and just want to eat.

      Reply
  4. dizzylexa

    You can get Gatsby’s at Jimmy Killer Grill in Emmarentia, would be interested to know how they rate against a Cape Town one.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Wow, I drive past there all the time and have never been! Will definitely check it out.

      Reply
  5. saraessop

    Industry Bakery in Northcliff sells Gatsby’s. You should also try the AK47 at Akhalwaya’s in Church Street, Mayfair. It’s the Joburg version of a Gatsby. 🙂

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I need to check out Industry for sure! I haven’t been since they moved from Emmarentia. And the AK47 needs to happen too. Maybe we should meet up!

      Reply

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