Gass & Main: The Pinnacle of Middle-Class Fancy

From caviar-topped French onion dip to BBQ burnt-end rainbow carrots, Gass & Main’s grown-up approach elevates nostalgic classics.

Gass & Main

BBQ burnt-end rainbow carrots at Gass & Main / Photography by Aaron Richter

I’ll never forget sitting in my car in a parking lot in Audubon and eating chef Dane DeMarco’s Cowboy Tots for the first time.

This was when DeMarco was at Burgertime, their first solo swing at Restaurant World after years spent running the kitchens­ at South Philly Tap Room, American Sardine Bar, and Sonny’s; after lockdowns and pandemic side hustles, after burnout, after soul-searching, after walking away completely and then coming back with this little burger joint with a videogame theme, focused on an anarchic love of junk food and pure American­ excess.

Gass & Main

Dane DeMarco, owner and chef of Gass & Main

I liked Burgertime a lot. It’s closed now — a tough decision for DeMarco, who was seeking a better work-life balance for their family. But the way it examined life through every chaotic burger and hot dog topped with Fritos and peanut butter stuck with me. Biographical cuisine can be a delicate tightrope to walk. Get it right, and you build a kinship with your guests. But miss out on the universality of your theme, and you become the person at the dinner party who just can’t stop talking about themself.



Gass & Main
7 Kings Court, Haddonfield

CUISINE: American


Order This: The pork and beans, but if you don’t get the carrots, you’re missing the point.

DeMarco got it just right at Burgertime. And that same flavor­ of an examined life carried over onto the menu at their latest restaurant, Gass & Main. Here, the stories­ told are more complex and nuanced, shaped by suburban dinner tables and old back issues of Gourmet magazine. They’re told in the form of house-made chips with French onion crème fraîche and caviar, deviled eggs with smoked cheddar­ and horseradish balanced over a bowl of field greens, or mac-and-cheese made from truffled gnocchi and a smooth blond Mornay­ topped with black truffle peels and a dusting of herbed breadcrumbs.

Because that’s just chips and French onion dip, get it? It’s just Mom’s Tuesday-night mac-and-cheese. It’s just pork and beans, except here, it’s a pork rib eye, grill-marked like the kitchen used a protractor, glazed in apple butter for a shot of juicy sweetness, and then set atop a mound of smashed red-skin potatoes and surrounded by a moat of homemade bacon-braised baked beans that taste exactly like the ones you get out of the can — except inexplicably better in every conceivable way.

Trying to re-create memory like this — only glorified and illuminated — is dangerous. You have to understand deeply both the thing you’re trying to evoke and how that thing, already idealized in recollection, can somehow be improved. And over and over again, DeMarco and their crew nail it. The beef cheeks, with their chunky mashed potatoes, fried shallots, horseradish, 10-hour red wine braise and red wine gravy, come to the table halfway between Julia Child’s classic beef bourguignon and whatever stewed beef you ate growing up. The grilled shrimp over an explosion of winter citrus play like a flashback to summer days by the ocean if you eat inside Gass & Main’s cozy dining room or at the small tables that line one wall of the kitchen.­ But the same plate eaten outside, on a warm spring evening, at one of the tables set on the pedestrian mall, tastes like anticipation and a promise of warmer days coming.

Gass & Main

Grilled shrimp with winter citrus

Then there’s the kitchen’s BBQ burnt-end rainbow carrots. I have no idea what moment DeMarco is memorializing on this plate, but I also just don’t care. I have seen (and suffered) a hundred different chefs trying to make carrots into center-plate stars. Ninety-eight of them have failed, some so horribly that I can still taste their misfires years later.­ This plate is one of the two I can remember succeeding: orange, yellow and purple carrots, dry-rubbed like ribs, grilled and roasted until soft — the texture of fatty pork. You can cut them with a fork. And they come dressed with microgreens, pickled jalapeño, a pimento spread loose enough to be a sauce or dressing, and a splash of caramelized barbecue sauce that I didn’t even notice until the carrots were almost gone. This dish is smart. Counterintuitive. Snarky in its vegetable-izing of a BBQ classic. Most important, it’s delicious. I wouldn’t send you to New Jersey after something that was less than mind-alteringly good, but this single plate is worth the trip all on its own.

Gass & Main

Gass & Main’s dining room

The rest of it? That’s just Dane DeMarco growing up. It’s the way they look back now at years and dishes­ and flavors gone by and reconnect them to this present moment. It’s a chef talking not just about themself, but about all of us who came up in the age of recipe boxes and family dinner tables, chips and dip, beans and wienies. It’s about moving on and, at the same time, never forgetting where you came from.

3 Stars — Come from anywhere in Philly

Rating Key
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in Philly
★★★★: come from anywhere in America

Published as “The Pinnacle of Middle-Class Fancy” in the May 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.