The main course is the featured or primary dish in a meal consisting of several courses. It usually follows the entrée (“entry”) course.
The main dish is usually the heaviest, heartiest, and most complex or substantial dish on a menu. The ingredients are usually meat, fish or another protein source. It is most often preceded by an appetizer, soup or salad, and followed by a dessert. For those reasons the main course is sometimes referred to as the “meat course”.
In formal dining, a well-planned main course can function as a sort of gastronomic apex or climax. In such a scheme, the preceding courses are designed to prepare for and lead up to the main course in such a way that it is anticipated and, when the scheme is successful, increased in its ability to satisfy and delight the diner. The courses following this course then calm the palate and the stomach, acting as a sort of dénouement or anti-climax.