Spire's Spaetzle Gratin
Requirements for opening a restaurant in SOMA's ballpark corridor: big bar, dishes you can eat without the dangly tails of your panda hat wicking up extraneous sauces, slouchy lounge.
Once its liquor license arrives (possibly in time for Thursday's Giants home game), brand-new Spire can check off all three boxes. The former warehouse space on Third ― currently open weekdays for lunch ― has a menu that walks a narrow line between bistro glossy and sandwich scrappy.
Ex-Waterbar sous Laird Boles navigates between the burger and the marinated local sardine. His spaetzel gratin likewise spans refinement and populism. It's a tweaking of the inevitable mac and cheese, only with nubbly spaetzle kernels instead of tube pasta. Dense and faintly elastic, spaetzle makes an overdone dish seem new ― same with the garnish of garlicky, lemon-breathing gremolata. And the sauce is stiff enough to resist panda-hat staining.
Spire 685 Third St. (at Townsend), 947-0000.