Scam Slam

I confess: Gustav's pastries are decadent. The Hamra patisserie has catapulted into fame for its red velvet cake balls, and it's no wonder because the small spherical bites pack a dense, doughy richness that can't be found anywhere else in Lebanon.

3,500LL ($2.33) seems a bit steep for something so small, but Gustav can get away with it--it's a monopoly, after all. But when a chain coffee shop just a few blocks down from the distributor charges 8,000LL ($5.33) per ball, that's a criminal offense. Second Cup features a selection of cakes, viennoiseries, and muffins in addition to its specialty coffees. Half of those pastries come from Gustav, and what drove me wild last week as I sat inside Second Cup watching customer after customer fork over one form of dough for another was the cafe's selling strategy. Brilliant but felonious.

None of the pastries have a price displayed. And everyone knows Lebanese people wouldn't be caught dead asking for the price on anything. That's a major faux pas, a social no-no. To inquire for a price is to demonstrate how cheap you are. You just don't do it.

Enter the studious college kid (Second Cup's clientele is almost exclusively AUB students) who scopes these tantalizing cake balls and points at one to go with her coffee. A wise and less guilt-inducing option next to the full-sized cakes, she calculates. And a mere two inches in diameter. How much could it be, she figures? Too late. The cashier's rung it up and sporting a smirk as he reaches out his hand to collect. The girl is flustered, fumbling for cash but troubled that coffee plus dessert just ate up her dinner money.

I had the courage to go up to the barista and ask about all the other Gustav treats. Believe it or not, large or small, slice or ball, they're all priced at a flat 8,000LL. Kid must be making a commission.

The infamous cake balls by Gustav (photo source / FoodntheCity)


  1. hahaha! so funny :-) I do not pass anything without asking how much it costs.

  2. I am so glad to have found your blog through as link from plus961. I just kept reading and reading each post, especially the ones related to you. Being a third culture kid myself I found a lot of things I relate to... I am hooked please keep on blogging. Darine

  3. Darine--I appreciate your wonderful feedback! There are always adventures to be had, and so I'll definitely keep blogging about them. Please stay tuned! Merry Christmas


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