I'm a complete wannabe — I even put that as my occupation in my profile — so go easy.
A while back I inherited the tedious upkeep on a minor project that has forever used a LOT of Helvetica fake small caps. It's just as awful as you think, and I can't stand it anymore. But I don't have the authority to completely overhaul the card.
I've tried some other sans-serifs with true small caps, but most of them are humanist and thus all wrong. I've found that you can get http://an SC font of Akzidenz Grotesk, but it leaves me feeling "Ennh."
Are there any realist sanses out there with nice-looking small caps?