Sometimes I doubt the value of social media for restaurants, especially when Facebook and Twitter pages sit mostly inactive for months at a time because chef/owners are too busy to post and tweet.

A frequently updated Web page is much more valuable for restaurants anyway, because they can capture the Facebook- and Twitter-averse audiences who have cash to burn.

In the case of Bibo’s Madd Apple Cafe in downtown Portland, however, I have to admit that it got me through its Facebook page. Most people think of the cafe as a place where you pop in before curtain time at Portland Stage for a nice dinner of chipotle braised pork or steak frites, to quote a couple of items currently on the dinner menu.

But it also serves lunch three days a week, as I learned when I started noticing the postings of specials on its Facebook page. The choices sounded just too tempting, especially for the prices advertised, and I made plans to drop in for lunch one day.

As I walked down to the cafe on a rainy weekday, I passed a local Subway shop that was busy with Portlanders eating lunch. I remember thinking it would be interesting to compare food and prices later on, given that many of the items on the Bibo’s menu were also sandwiches, subs and wraps.

When I arrived at the cafe, I was the only customer and had my choice of tables in the cozy, artsy dining area. I settled in at a small table and started to relax as I listened to the soft stylings of Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby and other crooners from the 1930s and ’40s.

The lunch menu offered a wide range of mouthwatering choices, from a bacon cheeseburger for $7.95 to a curried mango shrimp wrap for $9.95. The least expensive item was the daily soup and half-sandwich of the day special for $6.95.

On the day I visited, the soup of the day was a creamy tomato cheddar soup, and the sandwich was smoked turkey and Swiss. The most expensive menu items were a lobster crabcake served as a salad or a sandwich for $10.95.

But most sandwiches cost $7.95, and include choices such as a chicken bacon Swiss wrap, a Philly cheesesteak sub and a grilled bacon, tomato, red onion and cheddar sandwich. All of the sandwiches and wraps come with fries and a salad.

Vegetarian options include a falafel salad for $7.95 and sandwiches called “The Farm Stand” and “I Left My Heart in Avocado” — artichoke hearts, goat cheese, sliced tomatoes, avocado and fresh basil.

I decided to start with a cup of the tomato cheddar soup and follow that up with another special of the day, a pesto chicken sub. The tomato cheddar was creamy and delicious, with bits of whole tomato floating in it and none of the odd texture that cheese can sometimes give a soup. I later regretted ordering it, though — not because of the taste, but because what arrived next was a huge amount of food to consume for lunch. (I ended up leaving about a third of it on my plate.)

The pesto chicken sub contained tender slices of chicken tossed with tomatoes, spinach and pesto, with Parmesan melted on top. It was all stuffed until overflowing into extremely fresh white bread, and had to be cut with a knife to eat, because it was impossible to pick up the whole thing like a regular sandwich. I think the pesto chicken would be delicious served with a little pasta instead of the bread.

The fries were hand-cut with skins still on, and came out as piping hot as the sandwich, with a small side of ketchup. The salad was a handful of spring greens that had been tossed with a little vinaigrette.

Although other customers came in while I was there — some for takeout, some for a sit-down lunch — I remember thinking, “Why isn’t this place packed?” For prices that, by and large, are just 50 cents to a dollar more than a foot-long fast-food sub (except for the famous $5 foot longs, of course), you can go to Bibo’s and get a great sandwich with fries and a salad, in a relaxing atmosphere, for under $10.

I plan to go back, so maybe I’ll see you there.

The staff of GO anonymously samples meals for about $10.


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