Thanks for replying. I live in the City as well and have visited one of the two Village Tannery shops (the one on Bleeker St). There is no question about the quality, and I especially appreciate the underrated-ness (no logos etc).
My only issue with them is they seem to be a bit pushy with business and are too casual about bargaining. They seem to have a special sense of who's there to look and who's there to buy and react accordingly, and they could tell I was hesitant about spending over $1000 on my first visit.
When I asked them about making a customized bag, one of the owners literally went "well, if you want a bag like that, I will charge you, hmm 700, 800, 900, yeah, 900 dollars, well, 850", which was a huge turn-off. Maybe I'll visit the Great Jones location - I have called them once and the person seemed quite reasonable and nice.
I've visited Joseph Hanna in person as well. The bags were done half as nicely and were priced accordingly. The owner was just as pushy (even suggesting that I should take cash out of a corner ATM to purchase the bag for a discount on the same day). Multiple sources confirmed that I could easily get a 30% off if I wanted.
That brings me to the other brands. Leyden and Sons seemed to be of excellent quality and may be the "poor man's" Saddleback.
As for the offshore shops: Billy Goat is based in Australia and makes their bags in India with goat skin. Similarly, Burghley is based in UK and makes their bags in India with goat skin as well. Both are similarly priced and cost about 1/4 of Village Tannery. Scaramanga is based in UK and uses cowhide and their prices are a bit higher but still about 1/3 of Village Tannery.
I'm actually considering ordering a bag from each of those places just to test them out (after all, each bag costs less than a night out in the City). If I didn't like them, I can always turn to Village Tannery or Saddleback.
I'm really hoping our fellow SF'ers can shed some light on those less well-known brands and perhaps compare to Village Tannery or Saddleback. I'm hoping to discover the best-kept secret, if there is such a thing at all.