I got my first (street)bike, a Ninja 500R, a little over a year ago, and have found it to be a good choice. I've ridden F4is, 929s, R6s, and GSXR 600 and 750s, and, every time I hop off of one of those bikes, I am damn glad I started off with the EX500; it's very deliberate and predictable. However, once you get comfortable enough with it to push it a little, you'll find that it's a lot of fun; I've scraped the footpeg feelers on mine countless times.
I rode with a few squids (an F4i, a Duc 750, and an R6) last summer, and while I couldn't ride the long wheelie with them, I spanked their asses on every curve and hung with them most of the time (quick-shifting dorks. . .)
The EX is a great bike to learn on, and, past that, it's cheap to buy and insure. When I get a new bike in the summer (probably an F4i or ZX-6R), I'm gonna keep the 500 and make it a track bike.
The one thing I would reccomend that I didn't do is buy your first bike used unless you plan on keeping it for a long time.
Good luck in your search, and keep that tack hammer ready.