In "sharp look", do you image quality wise or something else? Quality glass will be a bit more than your run of the mill lens. Say around $500 and up. Something in the same range will be the Canon EF-S 17-85 f/4-5.6 IS, EF 17-40 f/4 L. Both really good, sharp lenses. One is an L the other has IS. For added peformance in a general all-aroound lens, you can look at the EF 24-105 f/4 L, EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS, EF 24-70 f/2.8 L. There are also lenses from Sigma, Tokina and Tamron, but I personally stick with Canon. Had a so-so experience with Sigma.
IS is image stablization on certain lenses that helps negate shutter shake, vibration that can make a photo blurry. Good for hand-held shots and slow shutter speeds. L is Canon designation for their premium line of lenses with a extra low dispersion glass element that improves image quality. As a general rule of thumb...Quality+$$$$. Look at the EF-S 17-85 f/4-5.6 IS. I rarely pimp any one product, but this lens served me well until I got my 24-105. Gives you added range, IS and a definite improvement in image quality.
I think what you are looking for is a 50mm lens. You can pick up the 1.8 for less than $100. It's a great, sharp lens, but since you said you don't something too cheap, the 1.4 might be for you. It's image quality is really no better, but the build quality is significantly better.
soylentgreen, I'm looking at reviews and many users complain about distortions at 17mm. Do you have this problem? Also, could you tell the difference between the kit lens and these? I don't want to invest in a $500 lens and see no difference from the $100 kit lens.
What sort of distortion? Barrel distorition, pin cushioning? I never encountered any that I noticed. Than again I shoot more wildlife than buildings and such, so it is a tad harder to detect. Most wide-angle lenses will give you some degree of distortion at the edges that is inherent to the design. Higher end lenses lessen this effect with added elements, say the 16-35 f/2.8 L and tilt-shift lenses.
You will notice that the images from the 17-85 will be better in contrast and sharpness. Really depends on the level of quality ou seek. It's not going to be night and day different, but the images will not be as soft. Lower aperature will definitely be usefull.