MAJO LAPREA RODRÍGUEZ // Troupial
Photography courtesy of TROUPIAL
ON THE SOUTHERNMOST EDGE of the Starland District, a two-story yellow house sits at 43rd and Whitaker streets, a bright spot on an otherwise unremarkable block. Step inside and you might think you’re at a coffee shop, but a sign behind the vibrant yellow espresso machine says otherwise. “We are not a coffee shop. We are a specialty coffee service.”
Troupial began four years ago as a small Venezuelan bread delivery service, growing to a Forsyth Farmers’ Market staple before becoming a brick-and-mortar shop at The Garage in February 2021. In late March, service began at the yellow house, which can seat up to 100 guests between two floors of dining space and outdoor seating. Coffee is the heart of the endeavor, and great food — like traditional, house-made Venezuelan bread — adds an additional layer of interest, says Troupial’s founder, Majo Laprea Rodríguez. The specialty coffee service concept is also a culturally South American idea.
“It’s not just a place to get a cup of coffee,” she says. “It’s a place where you create memories and have special moments with friends or just with yourself.”
ON VENEZUELAN AREPAS
In Venezuela, breakfast and dinner are lighter meals built around arepas. Venezuelan arepas are a cornmeal pocket you can eat plain or stuffed with whatever you want. One of our most popular arepas is the Vegan Green, which features a homemade vegan dressing, local greens from Vertu Farm, tomato and avocado. If you want to try a traditional Venezuelan breakfast arepa, the Perico is stuffed with our traditional scrambled eggs, which have tomato, onion and a touch of heavy cream.
ON HER FAVORITE MENU ITEMS
After I moved here, I took baking lessons with a Venezuelan baker over FaceTime and started baking traditional breads. So, all our breads are authentic and remind me of home. One creation that really connects me to my family is Tovar, which is one of the mini breads we offer. It’s basically guava and cheese. I also love the French and Butter, one of our specialty breakfasts that is very popular. It includes a choice of specialty coffee (espresso, doppio, cappuccino or flat white) with two warm mini baguettes, farm butter and jam. These small baguettes are very traditional — at 5 o’clock [in the evening] every day in Venezuela, you can go outside and follow the aroma of this bread coming out of ovens everywhere. We also have a combo option called Hey Cappuccina, which is named after my cat. For $9, you can choose a piece of mini bread and a drink. We created this with Savannah College of Art & Design students in mind, so they could have a good breakfast at an affordable price with lots of options.
“It’s not just a place to get a cup of coffee. It’s a place where you create memories and have special moments with friends or just with yourself.”— Majo Laprea Rodríguez
ON THE RENOVATION
This house was built in 1915, and our goal was to honor the time period with the renovation while also featuring local artists throughout the space. We found period antiques at auctions and paid attention to small details like seat cushions. There are also troupials all around the place, which is the national bird of Venezuela. Our interior designer is my close friend Andrew Gauthé, who was my first roommate in Savannah when I arrived four years ago and couldn’t speak a word of English. His wife, Laurel, is one of our featured artists. The second floor houses our permanent art collection, and downstairs, all the art is for sale to support local artists.
ON THE STARLAND DISTRICT
When I came in, I revamped the entire menu. I change the menu items as the seasons change. Some dishes last 60 weeks, some last two to four weeks — depends on the availability of local products.