Sunday, January 19, 2014

@ Relax, It's Just Coffee in Downtown Mansfield

I am the first to admit I am never going to be a coffee connoisseur, and up until this post, I never really thought it mattered much.

Lets just say the two men drinking their coffees outside
were very amused to watch the photoshoot between
Matt and I. 
It was not so much the case at Relax, It's Just Coffee. The Mansfield coffee shop--sometimes spelled without the comma to grind the gears of Grammar Nazis--is like the indie craft brewery of coffee shops. Some of their darkest coffees are so intense that they can make my boyfriend, Matt, squirm--even with milk and sweetener added.

Relax was a frequent hangout of Matt's when he was a student at Ohio State University's Mansfield Campus and it speaks volumes of the alternative lifestyle he lived (still mildly lives in a rated PG way) before meeting me.

According to Matt, I've seemingly visited every coffee shop worth reviewing in Knox County, and so we agreed to drive 40 minutes north Sunday, Jan. 12, to visit Relax and find out if anything has changed since our last visit in March.

Matt ordering our coffees.
Location: The coffee shop is located inside the city's historic Carrousel District and blends well with the surrounding businesses and their facades. Downtown Mansfield doesn't have the best reputation. Even I admit, the streets and buildings are a little too rustic and beaten and have too many parking lots for my taste. But the Carrousel District adds a breath of vitality to Downtown Mansfield, and despite being a small district, anyone can see the positive effects it is having on surrounding blocks.  Yet, Matt was walking, experiencing an elevated sense of nostalgia.  He mused, "Simon, sometimes the best people and places are like these buildings: a little rough and worn, but still lovely."

Like any good coffee destination, Relax, sits in the center of this district and its mission to revitalize Downtown Mansfield.

I ordered a Mocha simply to appreciate the foam art.
Food and Beverage: If you're looking to quell an empty stomach, Relax is not the coffee shop to visit. Relax carries scones, cookies, muffins, bagels and other sugary carbs, all made by a local bakery, but leaves out other staple food options like sandwiches, wraps and soups. But then again, Relax is within walking distance of so many great restaurants that it's hard to knock off too many points because the coffee shop doesn't have a fully functioning kitchen.

On Sunday, Matt and I ordered a chai pistachio muffin, an apple oat scone, a 16-ounce Mocha and a 16-ounce mug of some absurdly dark coffee that will taint your soul. It all cost $8 and change.

Very nice layout for an artsy coffee shop.
Space: Relax is definitely a place worth checking out. With its narrow hall-like space, exposed ventilation and wooden flooring, Relax seems more like an art gallery that just so happens to brew and serve coffee. In fact, Relax is pretty much an art gallery. Paintings and sculptures from students and local artisans are arranged throughout the space.

It's probably why Relax often attracts a niche artistic crowd that sports dark, over-sized jackets and long hair. I call them intensely hipster, but Matt calls them "alternative," or more proudly "alt." Either way, walking into Relax Sunday made me regret shaving my facial hair or showering that week. But in less than an hour, the crowd of patrons changed from "alt" to business professionals and even families. (Because kids love those sugary Mochas.)

Large menu huh? It's actually all beverages.
Relax seems to also attract a lot of students. A few were working on their laptops Sunday, Matt included. Relax has plenty of wall outlets and unless you were logging on with my computer, the place also has working Wi-Fi. Its best attribute, however, is the soft, moody music the staff plays. Think Plumb, but without any Christian references.

If you're in Mansfield with an non-famished stomach, Relax is a place to stop in.

if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via email--shusted@news-herald.com--or on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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