A Gatsby is a South African submarine sandwich typically sold as a foot-long sandwich sliced into four portions. It is a popular sandwich in the Western Cape province, with many fast food and takeaway restaurants, stores and food stands purveying them. One large sandwich may be shared among several people. The Gatsby is also sometimes mistakenly referred to by the nickname AK‑47, which is a variant of the sandwich made in Johannesburg, in part due to how it can be held in one's arm in a similar manner to the firearm. It has been described as a "filling, budget meal", a standard menu item in Cape Town corner stores, and as a significant part of the heritage and a cultural symbol of Cape Flats, where it originated.
Gatsby usually consist of long bread rolls cut lengthwise and opened up to form a sort of cradle which is filled with various fillings. While the choice of filling in a Gatsby varies widely depending on customer preference and vendor, one standard item is usually hot chips, i.e., French fries or slap chips (French fries with vinegar). Hot dog buns and roti flat bread are sometimes used, and it is typically prepared using a sauce, most commonly achar or piri piri. They are typically a large-sized sandwich, and have been described as suitable for sharing among several people.
Different varieties of Gatsbys use meat ingredients such as chargrilled steak, masala steak, fresh or pickled fish, calamari, chicken, polony, curry, Vienna sausage, Russian sausage and eggs.
Gatsbys originated in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, where people would often buy large rolls and fill them with whatever leftovers they had from the previous evening's meal. The Gatsby is traditionally made using foot-long rolls, referred to by bakers as "drumsticks rolls", rather than the hamburger roll popularised overseas, to enable easier filling of the sandwich. The original polony Gatsby sandwich continues to be the most popular variant among customers as this is the cheapest form of the meal.
The sandwich is named after The Great Gatsby, a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Nobody really knows when or how the concept came about (even though many falsely laid claim to be the originators because of its popularity) except that it originated in various factories in and around Cape Town during the 1970s. It is believed that the workers created sandwiches so they could share their lunches. As the French loaf allowed for extra filling space, they would prefer to use these over traditional bread slices that way it could also be easier shared amongst co-workers.
Though nowadays the Gatsby takes on all shapes, combinations and sizes ensuring that you stay filled for less with the most popular being a fresh foot long sandwich with French fries (also known as slap chips in Cape Town) with the choice of polony, Vienna, Russian, chicken, fish or steak. As the Gatsby is large, filling and cheap meal this practice has carried on in modern times with the Gatsby purveyed in full, half and quarter sizes. This practice of combining various combinations of food in a singular meal became popular all around Cape Town and continues to grow in popularity even amongst the wealthier patrons.
In October 2013, an event in Cape Town occurred at a waterfront where chefs prepared a Gatsby sandwich that was over 8 m (26 ft) long. A focus of the event was, per its organizers, to create South Africa’s "first official heart-healthy Gatsby." The sandwich was modified to increase fiber content and to lower sodium, saturated fat and total fat, making the sandwich more heart-healthy. Pharma Dynamics sponsored the event.