After 18 years, Portland’s BiBo’s Madd Apple Cafe will close on New Year’s Day

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The cozy cafe serves succulent fare and zero pretense. Photo courtesy of Bibo’s Madd Apple Cafe.

It’s not the flashiest of places, and for that reason BiBo’s Madd Apple Cafe on Forest Avenue draws fans. But after 18 years of fortifying theater lovers, thespians and Portlanders who can recall a time before Eventide Oyster Co. and Duckfat came to town, the dependable downtown spot near Portland Stage is preparing its last act.

In a note titled “The Farewell Tour,” chef/owner Bill Boutwell and his wife Andrea broke the news on Facebook and Twitter Monday: “Greetings Friends and Foes, We are posting to let you know that as of January 1, 2017 Bibo’s Madd Apple Cafe will be no more.”

Reached by phone Tuesday, Bill Boutwell said the decision was three years in the making. Still, the 48 year old was emotional.

“We’ve been there 18 years. I’ve been working 60 to 70 hours a week. There is no day off for an owner. We have a 12-year-old son and I want to be able to be there when he’s in school,” he said.

A series of events, not including rent, which he said is reasonable, precipitated the decision.

“I’m tired, our lease was up in February and some of the changes coming down the pike with the minimum wage initiative that passed, made the decision easier,” he said. 

To keep the cafe affordable and maintain its casual charm would be a challenge under the new rules, which kick in Jan. 1. “Everyone says, ‘well, just raise your prices.’ That is not who we are. We don’t want to have a restaurant where people have to mortgage their house to have dinner. I am not going to start jacking prices because of new rules,” he said.

Boutwell has found a new chef job, but declined to say where. The space, owned by Portland Stage may become a new eatery, he indicated.

“We are all going to be fine and will move on. We didn’t want to be that restaurant that said ‘see ya!’ We wanted to show we had some class,” he said.

A farewell dinner is planned Dec. 16 and a New Year’s bash will end its impressive run. BiBo’s Madd Apple Cafe, 23 Forest Ave., Portland.

Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.