West Philly/University recomendations
Thanks for the all the help everyone. The show's venue changed at the last minute and we ended up having to make a last minute decision and ended up at a less than mediocre Japanese restaurant on 18th and Walnut. At least the service was very friendly. he food though is not even worth mentioning, the sushi looked dreadful so we got the most banal of dishes, Chicken Teriyaki. I'll keep the recomendations for future use.
The first place that sprung to mind for me was Genji, at 40th and Spruce. Obviously, it's Japanese, and it's probably the best sushi I've had in Philadelphia. Which is surprising to me, since it's mostly students that live in the area. Cooked dishes are also very good. I think my favorite part is the setting - simple, and usually quiet. They have a second restaurant in Center City, but I've never been to that one.
At 40th and Chestnut is Nan, which has been recommended by others on this board, but I've never been there. You might want to check below for that one. Also, there is Thai Singha (I think that's the one I like - there's two Thai places on that corner). I have been there a couple times, and liked it, but I don't think I've had anything more elaborate than Pad Thai.
Also, there is Campus Epicurian at 43rd and Spruce, a couple doors down from where I used to live. It's a tiny place on the corner that you would probably ignore if you didn't know it was there. The chef/owner has some simple but delicious menu items, is almost always there when it's open, and is very friendly. The only problem is that it is open sporadically, and I never knew when it would be open. If you're around Saturday morning, that's a good place to get brunch. Good Challah french toast. For dinner, I used to order the tortellini with a mushroom sauce. Not complicated, but still very good.
There are a couple at 34th and Sansom that I've heard great things about, but I have never been there, and they are probably a little more expensive - White Dog Cafe and La Terrasse (sp?).
Hope this is helpful in some way.
If you're looking for ethnic/vegetarian, you probably couldn't do much better than West Philly (at least in the context of the Philly area). THere are a gaggle of Ethiopian places--two on Baltimore in the mid-40s (a bit of a hoof from Locust, but not that bad) I've eaten at one, Dhalak, and not at the other, Mesreem. Everyone else seems to think that Dhalak is great, but i thought it was only so-so (I'm spoiled by having lived in Seattle, probably the best place in the U.S. to eat Ethiopian food). I'm itching to try the Ethiopian place on sansom and 45th (much closer to Locust), which appears to have a bar downstairs and a dining room upstairs. I believe it's called Abyssinia. I can't put my finger on why, but I have this feeling that it's going to turn out to be the very best in the area (but I could be horribly disappointed). All of the above have pretty much the same dishes, heavy on the veg. options.
There are a number of middle-eastern places, the closest to you I think will be the one on the corner of Walnut and 45th (don't know the name, sorry). Incidentally, this is the only one I don't routinely see exclusively Penn students at, partly because it's a bit of a hoof from the school.
If you want something a bit more unusual, there's a West African place (I think the people who run it are Senegalese, judging from the way they speak French, but they might be Malian). I can't really recommend it, because I've never been able to eat there. Believe me, I've tried, but it's never worked out. The last time I was there I sat for ten minutes, then the server came over and told me what they didn't have cooked yet (it was lunch time) and then disappeared. Eventually I left. I figure I'll go back and try it out at dinner time sometime, but it might not be soon. It's on Baltimore at 45th or so.
If you want a really cheap (really, really cheap) southern meal, (3.50-3.75 for the whole plate), you might go to the Genuine Bakery on Springfield btwn 45 and 46, but it's really quite a ways from Locust and 40th (see my two postings above).
There are Indian places, but so far I haven't found any that are worth recommending. Nothing to warn you away from, just nothing that makes me want to try it a second time.