The brewpub near me has a 7 barrel system with 3 fermenters and brews once a week in a city of just under 8,000. They have 10 beers on tap and have BMC in bottles with a few import bottles. Thing I like about them is they price their [true] pints at $3.25 but a bottle of Bud Light will cost you $5!
Smaller systems equal more labor. My opinion, if I'm going to spend a few hours brewing I would want it to be something that I know can sell quickly and make a profit, rather than brewing the niche within a niche within a niche type beers that sell slow. I wouldn't focus on breaking even with beer, it's a business and everything you do must be done with the intent to make a profit. If you're really after just brewing niche beers that won't sell as well as session beers will, then a 1bbl system might be all you need.
It's been cited in a few places to plan for 5-10 bbls per seat per year for a brewpub depending on the size of your market. Say 100 seats at 5 barrels is 500 barrels annual production which on a 7bbl system is a bit over 70 batches.
I wouldn't start on a glorified homebrew system unless you're already open and waiting for the brewhouse to arrive or you're going for the niche stuff for a few handles. People usually don't order an 8% beer with dinner. My village brewpub has a 3.5bbl system and all four taps have 7% or bigger beers. Takes a long time to kill the serving tanks.
With a city as big as in your profile, 7bbl is minimum. There are many breweries selling their small systems, either due to going out of business or expanding. Fair amount of used systems in the market now.