"Heading toward ritzy"
West 52nd is an interesting mix of what you would expect of midtown (big, ugly commercial buildings) and an uptown vibe with some great history. It starts its run at 5th Avenue with a bizarre commercial building with what in it I don't know. Across the street is the site of one of the Vanderbilt's mansions. He was the first person to live on 5th Avenue which started the trend of all the rich people living along this street in 1879. It and the space next to it where another Vanderbilt mansion was built is now taken up by skyscrapers, sadly. This entire street was mansions within the next few years and all that's left of it is one of the house's stables that is now a fancy restaurant. One of my favorite places in the city is on this block, however, and is a relic from the past that continues to be awesome: the 21 Club. The 21 Club is a ridiculously pompous restaurant, It used to be a speakeasy in the 30's where every famous person would sneak away. Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart had their first date here and every single president has dined here since, I believe, FDR. It was a wild and crazy time for the elite and still is catered to that clientele though it's no longer raucous. I had lunch here last summer and couldn't get over all the uptown grandmas in their minks in July. It's a really interesting place and I find it equal parts old timey cool and laughably posh. I really enjoy 21 Club and highly recommend it. There are a couple of other popular restaurants here like Athos but none can match 21. The block has a few brownstones that remain (now converted to business buildings) but the majority of it is taken up by massive corporations like CBS and Sperry Rand. It's a shame because there used to be a lot of jazz clubs and beautiful buildings where the likes of Marlon Brando lived. Most of them are gone which is, I guess, why I like 21 Club so much.
The next block is all big business and no history. It's a sad departure from the area around 5th because it makes no attempt to have anything cool to it. There are a couple of mid range hotels like the Sheraton and buildings like the UBS. There are no restaurants and no vibrancy which is a sad way to start to trek into Hell's Kitchen (appropriately named). This isn't a street that I would want to live on because it's too corporate and there are too many people around during the day with no neighborhood feel to it. But, I do venture here for the 21 whenever I can and it's not a terrible street by any means.