Do you have a budget in mind?
On commercial tapes, my first choice would be to find a DVD or Blu-ray copy of the program if available; look for studio releases. Some bootleg operations may offer digital transfers for sale (e.g., Song of the South). The quality can be mixed at best and the tape you have might actually look better.
IMO: the better VCRs for transfer would also be the better VCRs for viewing, but most TV's are more forgiving than capture cards so lesser machines (and at a lower price point) may work OK for you, especially if tapes are commercial/retail at SP speed in good condition (and certainly not EP/SP/SLP speed home recordings). In just viewing you are not capturing the best possible signal for restoration purposes, but if that is a future possibility keep that in mind as you shop.
Keep in mind that any VCR bought today will be an old model that has sat on a shelf somewhere aging, even if unopened box, so the condition of an individual units and its history, including maintenance history, may be as important a limiting factor as the "when new" reputation of the unit.
Up-scaling in the projector or receiver: which is better will depend on the specific gear you have, only way to know is to try some tapes and see which you prefer. Having a TBC in the signal path is a plus, but usually not as essential as when doing capture.
You mentioned a willingness to kiss frogs. Thrift store and yard sales might produce some low cost frogs to try while in search of your princess, and might offer you a chance to test a unit before you buy it (at least to check for PBJ sandwiches in the tape slot and the ability to handle a sacrificial test tape). Just like buying from auction sites there is a risk of catching warts with any purchase; at least yard sales are admittedly "as-is" and you can eyeball the seller.