In December 2013, Chase Compton wrote his first Yelp review about Cafe Mogador in New York City’s East Village.
His post includes the types of things you’d expect to read in an online restaurant review. He writes about the waitstaff (the waitress is the kind who “seems genuinely happy to bring you more hot sauce”) and he describes his food (he got the halloumi eggs: za’atar pita, halloumi cheese, and roasted tomatoes).
But that’s where the similarities to a normal Yelp review stop.
His post isn’t really about Mogador’s brunch selection; it’s about Compton’s broken heart.
For the last four months, Compton has been using Yelp to write a digital memoir, detailing the collapse of a relationship through the reviews of different bars and cafes that he visited with his ex. His posts are each several paragraphs long, written in a narrative voice, jam-packing his poetic musings alongside details about his Chinese food or pierogies.
Compton, 31, and his boyfriend met on OKCupid and stayed together for about nine months before the relationship fell apart. Readers don’t get every detail of what went wrong by reading Compton’s intentionally vague posts, but Compton makes it clear that he was the one who got dumped.
“The project has become a topographical map of my love story,” Compton told Business Insider. “It’s like dropping a pin on a subway map of New York City.”
Compton, who considers himself a “guerrilla blogger,” chose to tell his story through Yelp because it was therapeutic, but also because he wanted to catch people off guard.
Since he started his elaborate reviewing, he’s recieved an “overwhelming response,” getting emails and messages from people who have stumbled upon them while looking, for example, for the best juice bar in Greenwich Village.
People go to Yelp to find out whether the cafe on the corner has a good cheeseburger or whether the waitresses there are rude, Compton says. “And yet I have people writing me saying, ‘You’ve changed my day completely.'”
He wants readers to find beauty in a place where they’d least expect it. By exploring the slow healing of a broken heart, Compton is tackling a topic that most people can relate to. He wants to entertain, but also provide a glimmer of hope to anyone else suffering from the same aches and pangs.
On the one hand, Compton’s reviews aren’t that helpful because they don’t provide too many specifics about the food he eats, and every place he’s reviewed has earned five stars (“It’s not the French Roast’s fault that I got dumped on Thanksgiving and ended up there,” he says).
On the other hand, he’s one of the best reviewers on Yelp. His posts provide an atmospheric element that you don’t see in other reviews. They tell stories. Each establishment he writes about becomes imbued with an emotion that makes visiting more meaningful for his readers.
So far, Yelp hasn’t contacted Compton, and he admits he’s a little nervous about what the company would say.
“My intention was to be kind of like a literary Banksy,” he says. “And I don’t want to lose this. I’d be crushed if Yelp were to find out and not like what I was doing and shut me down.”
Business Insider reached out to Yelp for comment and, far from shutting down his project, a Yelp representative suggested that he nominate himself for its Elite Squad of reviewers.
You can read all of Chase Compton’s 18 reviews here.