"The Best" is a relative term, only you will decide what is best for you. Everyone gets hung up on "the best" There is no such thing, so stop looking for it right of the bat. If you ask 20 different people what's best, be ready for 20 different answers.
Second, don't discount the Glock due to looks, that's silly. Looking pretty won't make it function any better, just find some of us disgruntled Kimber owners.
Third, you've almost priced yourself out of the Sigs unless you go certified pre-owned (not a bad idea) the 229 and 239 are two totally different guns, the 229 is a double stack the 239 is a single stack. You can go to Sig's website and see the differences.
Holster selection for the Baby Eagle is smaller than the selection for more common guns, so if you decide you want to carry it later on it will be an issue.If it wasn't for the fact that you rule it out later, I would've suggested the Glock 19, while some find it ugly, it's still a hard package to beat. It's not exactly my cup of tea, but it's a fabulous starting point in finding out what you like and what you don't.I want something relatively compact and (preferably) with a polymer frame. Money, unfortunately is an issue. I'd like to have a limit of 600 dollars, but I'll spend more if I can find something I love.Unless you've been shooting pistols for a long, long time. Most if not all mid-tier guns are going to shoot relatively the same in the accuracy dept. Most peolple that complain of inaccurate guns need to spend less time on the internet posting about it and more time at the range with a knowledgeable person and find out what they're doing wrong and correct it.Reliability and Accuracy are KEY!!!As stated, looks don't make gun. But hey, it's your gun you can buy what you want.That said, I have to love the look of the gun, which is why I'm straying from the glock.I have no experience with the Jericho or the P99, but I would say that both are decent guns. The Sigs are fabulous, I seem to have a love affair with them as I don't currently own one, but have had some in the past. They seem to be my chick on the side as far as firearms are concerned. I just can't leave my current loves for them. I don't like the slide stop location and I'm not overly fond of the DAK and hate traditional DA/SA triggers, I had a 220 SAO, but as far as single stack, metal, SAO, .45s go; the 1911 is still king IMHO. Now that being said, the 226 in 9mm with the traditional DA/SA trigger is still on of the most reliable, accurate, and dead sexy pistols I've laid eyes on. The 229 is basically a scaled down version of the 226.I've been looking at a few guns in particular. First off, I love the Jericho (baby eagle) polymer compact. Also, the Walther p99 is a great looking gun (never held it though). And I've heard great things about the SIG's - I was thinking maybe a p229 or 239 (don't really know the difference) or a p250 (which I've heard mixed things about).
As stated, you can go to Sig's website and see the different models. As far as caliber is concerned, there is nothing wrong with the 9mm, the .40 is only slightly larger and the increased muzzle climb is a little harder to master. Being new to handguns, I would say it's best for you to start with the 9mm. Why introduce more issues like increased recoil while learning to master the gun?
Another possibility is the Springfield XD line, but if you think the Glock is ugly, you obviously haven't seen the original XD. I have an XDM in 9mm and love it.
Regarding poymer. I prefer steel frames to alloy or polymer, but I've had a little of everything and opinion of polymer is changing direction back into the positive side of things. There is something to be said for the weight difference as far as carry is concerned. But for a house gun is the light weight really needed? The added weight does help to dampen recoil and if it's a house gun, the added weight doesn't matter.
Now all that being said, the best course of action is to try and find a place that has a range and rents guns, they may not have all the models you want to try, but it's a start to find out what you like and what you don't. And while you're there, rent a Glock just to give it a try.