Brunch - vandaag alternative
Well, Vandaag never seemed all that crowded and now it's gone, so...
It's going to be tough to find creative brunch that isn't crowded and takes reservations. Many creative places don't take reservations (Public, Breslin, Prune).
You could try Minetta Tavern and Locanda Verde, but they will probably be crowded, though they do take reservations.
North End Grill, or Union Square Cafe?
Best weekend brunch:
not sure if they take reservations but i assume brunch at acme is the closest you will get to vandaag's brunch.
i havent tried acme for brunch (and it doesnt appeal to me for breakfast food) but i went to vandaag for brunch when they opened and enjoyed it...especially for its uniqueness. i found that the restaurant deteriorated in quality after those early few months.
Sadly, after the split with the original chef, Vandaag kind of went downhill. They never got BAD, but while the menus were quite inspired at first, they became a bit tame... It was sad when they closed, I kept hoping they'd find their groove again, get a good creative chef in there to run the show...
For super-creative brunch in that area, Public is the obvious choice. They're no-rez for brunch, but I've never had a long wait, even with a four-top, and usually there are seats at the bar available where you can sip coffee while you wait for a table. Especially if go during earlier brunch hours, it shouldn't be an issue at all.
Prune is great, of course, but there'll be a line out the door, unless you go so early that you can't order a Bloody Mary (no booze 'til noon in NYC, remember!)
A few doors down on the other side of the street is an unsung neighborhood favorite, JoeDoe - his brunches lean to the heavy, porky side, but they're by and large delicious. His duck hash with duck eggs is among the best I've had, really well balanced with a nicely acidic slaw to cut the richness. They take rezzies, so no dealing with lines... more people should check out JD after deciding to skip the lines at Prune.
Acme does take brunch rezzies as I recall, but their brunch menu is a little less creative than their dinner. Good, but not really aiming for the fences.
Also not super-creative but very good is Peel's. I find the brunch offerings much better than at their sister restaurant, Freeman's. Fried chicken on a biscuit with scrambled eggs and red-eye gravy... you could do worse. (Well, maybe you couldn't do worse for your arteries...)
If you're willing to wander westward, Recette makes a great brunch - worth moseying to the West Side for. Very creative, fun stuff.
And a little to the North you could do Riverpark. Great view, nice space, food is always quite solid.
Addendum: just did a quick search of Opentable for 5 people this Sunday (kept it to Lower Manhattan) and a few other names popped up:
David Burke Kitchen
Empellon Cocina (late, after 2:00 only)
Mehtaphor (Early, before 11:00 only)
Unfortunately, this close to the weekend, most places are going to be booked already. I noticed a few tables at Recette, though, which personally I'd jump on (being the best combination of "unique" and "takes reservations") if you're willing to go to the West Side.