Shiny, popular, fun, but your parents would still like it: I give you A.C. Newman. I needed a bike for my 3 months here, commuting ~5 miles each way daily, able to handle the hills of San Francisco, sturdy, ideally not getting many flats, hopefully not a super theft target.
A quick Craigslist search didn't reveal much that would fit all those needs. So I took the advice I recently gave to a friend on Craigslist and bought a $500 entry level hybrid, the Norco Indie 4.
Can I just take a minute and praise the $500 entry level hybrid? Bike companies should get together and give this a name. I'm talking about the Norco Indie 4, the Marin Larkspur, the Kona Dew, apparently the Trek 7.2, the Specialized Sirrus. They should get together and say "look, all these bikes are our versions of the $500 entry level hybrid", and then whenever your friend said "I'd like to try biking, what bike should I get?" you can say "go to your neighborhood bike store and get a $500 ELH." They're nice rides, smooth, comfortable, versatile, not super light or fast but they will get you where you want to go with a minimum of fuss. Quality bike-shop parts (not department-store), so you'll have a minimum of Bad Experiences (flat tires etc). They're not super slow, grumpy, or ugly either. This article calls them "fitness hybrids" (and in fact that article is a good guide if you're in the market), as opposed to "comfort hybrids".
Anyway, this one's got fat tires (but not like fat tires, 700x38c), fat aluminum frame, and flat bars. Disc brakes, which I don't really care either way about but might as well try. Low-end (but not like low-end) Shimano parts, but honestly I can't tell a difference, and it feels smoother than my mid-range Surly. (having pros putting it together probably helps.) I like it.
PLUS, I got to support Pedal Revolution, which seems like a darn cool place. Got some new gizmos too: locking skewers from Pinhead and a hardcore Kryptonite lock because I'm a small town boy terrified of theft in the big city, some Knog Blinder LED lights (USB chargeable!) because they're small enough for me to actually carry with me when I lock up the bike, and a sweet Giro helmet because I was not thinking enough to bring one (or lights or a lock) with me. Welp.
I call it A.C. Newman because it's from British Columbia and it's called the "Indie", and I don't know who's much more indie pop than the veritable BC New Pornographer Mr. Newman.
And if you're really stretching it, you could say it's got pretty fat tires and is not a super lightweight bike, so you could even call it (wait for it...) The Slow Wonder.