Avanti Markets501 Calvert St., avantimarkets.com
Theoretically, with its selection of low-calorie, low-fat meals ready to microwave and its fruit-and-vegetable options, one could keep heart-healthy and trim by relying regularly on Avanti's location in The Baltimore Sun building, which has a captive audience of badge-toting employees who can load up their bar-coded Avanti Market cards using a computer kiosk. In reality, though, after putting $50 on an Avanti card (which gives users an extra $3, about the cost of Avanti's yummy, but decidedly not healthy "hot 'n' ready bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit" [$2.99], which seems an exact clone of the same prepackaged item available at your nearby 7-Eleven, giving about half of the daily recommended amounts of fat, salt, and cholesterol, so consumers can almost set a timer to the onset of bloating and palpitations), users will likely go wild with Snickers (99 cents) and Utz chips (99 cents for 1.5 ounces).
For lunch, the tuna salad sandwich ($3.29) looked a bit dry, so we grabbed a packet of "Flavor Fresh" mayonnaise to dress it up with. Before ripping open a corner of the packet, we felt what seemed to be lumps inside, so we squeezed it, trying to smooth them out, and double-checked the label to make sure we hadn't grabbed tartar sauce by mistake. We hadn't, so we proceeded with caution and curiosity while opening the packet-and were greatly surprised when a brown, oily substance oozed out, which sent us, retching, on a sprint to the trash can. Lesson learned: Hold the mayo.
So far, given that experience, we've shied away from all other lunch sandwiches, but the breakfast sandwiches quickly have become gut-busting staples in the morning. As time passes, perhaps the Maruchan ramen noodle bowls (79 cents), the Bumble Bee tuna salad kits ($2.49), or the Barilla marinara penne packages ($4.99) will join the rotation. More likely, though, we'll stick with the coffee ($1.19 from a single-serve Keurig machine), Twizzlers ($1.99 for a 6-ounce bag), and Skittles ($1.49 for a 7.2-ounce bag) as our workaday diet, and balance out the bad calories with healthy eating at home.