OK, mighty Chowhounders, here are some other aspects to the challenge: The b'day boy would be most happy to be taken to a place with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, on the relatively light side (no French), with some good fish entries... atmosphere on the quiet side... friendly and respectful to this mixed un-hip crowd... price up to high moderate (i.e. not nutty expensive).
Oh, and this coming Saturday. (It's a long story.)
In trolling the boards, some possibilities I've collected are: Veritas, Oceana, March, Ilo, 11 Madison, and Anissa. Am I nuts to think I can get a reservation for five at these places on short notice? (Early-ish would be a possibility.) In any case, "name" is meaningless to this crowd--good, quiet, friendly, and the like are what counts.
Thanks so much for any insights you can offer!