Sick of the hassle of planning so far in advance...
I'm usually diligent about making reservations well in advance to avoid the last minute scramble to dine at some of the city's better establishments on a Friday or Saturday. However, this task (which is almost a full time job of calling, scheduling, and planning) is wearing thin. Perhaps "the process" is the result of mighty PR machines that NYC restaurants use to help them explode onto an already competitive marketplace? Maybe it's just a supply/demand imbalance of quality vs. quantity? Whatever the case may be, I need ideas for a party of 4, both Fri and Sat this weekend. Location is not an issue and I'm not looking for a super expensive meal. We have friends in town and wouldn't mind a drink at the bar, a decent scene, and some good food...So where should we go?
Use www.opentable.com and take what's available. Party of four shouldn't be too tough.
One strategy is to arrive right as the theater crowd leaves. This gives you a nice selection of pre-theater restaurants without the crowds. Marseille and Roberto Passon are both good options. 9th Avenue affords great bar options as you wait for your 8:00 table.
I'm with you. Hassle sucks. But all my out-of-towners prefer a crowded, famous restaurant (so they can brag to their neighbors about eating at Babbo, etc.) to an unknown restaurant without a hassle.