Bibo’s Madd Apple Café
23 Forest Ave.,
Route 302 snakes from Montpelier, Vt., all the way to Portland, where it’s better known as Forest Avenue. Near the very end of this long road there’s a tiny, unassuming eatery named Bibo’s Madd Apple Café.
As a dinner spot, the café is inextricably linked to its neighbor, Portland Stage Company. Besides the excellent food and wine, Bibo’s great strength is its staff’s uncanny ability to get you fed and out the door before the curtain opens next door. But brunch is a meal best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. On my way to a recent visit with my wife and 5-year-old daughter, I hoped they’d be able to slow down a notch and give us time to relax.
We arrived around 11:30 on a Saturday morning. Our waiter sat us quickly, but failed to offer coffee. We had to ask for it when placing our food order, and it turned out there was only one cup left in the pot. While my wife enjoyed the strong, hot beverage, my mug sat empty until another pot was brewed. Fortunately, I had already self-administered my caffeine fix, so I was feeling uncharacteristically patient.
We started with the daily muffin basket ($3.95), three large peach-blueberry muffins served with whipped butter and homemade strawberry jam. The muffins were moist and fluffy — a little salty, but not excessively so. We had plenty of time to enjoy this brunch appetizer before our entrees arrived.
Passing on such maple-syrup vehicles as the daily-special fruit pancake (apple cinnamon, $7.95) and Belgian waffle (with coconut cream, $7.95), my daughter ordered a simple bowl of yogurt and fruit ($4). Alongside fresh blueberries and sliced apples, the chewy dried cranberries seemed out of place, but since the kid didn’t mind, who was I to complain?
My wife chose the Smoked Salmon Benedict ($8.95), one of four Bennies available, including a tempting Lobster Crabcake ($12.95). The salmon was rich and flavorful, though sliced a bit thicker than she prefers, and the eggs were poached to absolute perfection. She enjoyed the light, tangy hollandaise sauce and the side of perfectly crisped homefries.
Among many intriguing menu options, the one that stood out for me was the Vegetable Hash ($7.95). It had both sweet and russet potatoes sautéed with fresh vegetables and sherry and topped with poached eggs. My eggs were also cooked to perfection, and the vegetables were tender but not mushy (this was true even of the diced eggplant, the modern-day name for the medieval-sounding “madd apple” of the café’s name). The flavors were subtle — I needed a little salt and pepper to bring them out — but overall I was satisfied with my choice.
I certainly needn’t have worried about feeling rushed. Our waiter — working without a busser or any other front-of-the-house staff — was not overly prompt, and managed to keep the dining room running fairly smoothly.
Bibo’s offers a comfortable atmosphere, fresh ingredients, an interesting menu and fair prices. And if you hit the road right after brunch, you can make it to Montpelier by dinnertime.
— Dan Zarin
Bibo’s Madd Apple Café serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Visit bibosportland.com for more info, including lunch and dinner hours.