THERE IS no connection between the Connecticut Connection and the French Connection, even though both of them might be described as underground operations.
All you can buy at the Connecticut Connections is food -- particularly lunch.The operation is Washington's first eating emporium, made up of eight individual shops, with direct access to Metro, the Farragut North station.
Though it cannot be seen from the street, the hungry hordes appear to have found it anyway. Only the miniature health food store, flower shop and candy counter are without lines at lunch time.
As the firm handling public relations for the retail center noted so astutely, "Connecticut Connection obviously does not offer gourmet fare. Rather it satisfies a universal demand for quality food served quickly and at a reasonable price."
The PR firm is partly right and partly wrong. The quality of the food varies significantly. The speed of service depends on the time of day.
Without doubt the two best operations in the underground mall are not fast food operations. They are the What's in the Oven, run by New York Bakery and the Cookie Connection where chocolate chip cookies outsell the others, but the oatmeal and peanut butter are delicious. Run by a young woman, who decided she liked to bake cookies and could make a living at it, the cookie fragrances waft from the ovens in the room behind the counter to the customers, enticing them to buy more. The young woman's mother, who had never worked outside her home a day in her life until her daughter went into business, has been pressed into service and loves it.
What's In the Oven bakes bread in the room behind its counter where very good and still-warm raisin pumpernickel makes as good a lunch as anything. The hot French bread is good, too. There are bagels and bagels with lox and cream cheese, an acceptable cheese cake and a good rye bread.
The largest of the fast foor operations is Radishes and Rainbows, which bills itself as a natural foods restaurant and looks suspiciously like Health's A Poppin' on K Street. That's as it turns out, because one of the former owners of the latter is involved in the new place.
There are lots of healthy salads, fruit juices, yogurt drinks, frozen yogurt, soups and sandwiches. For the most part, the food looks more appetizing than it tastes. There is a certain blandness to the food, though on the whole compared to other fast food operations, it has a lot to offer. By far the best items are the freshly squeezed vegetable juices. . . when the machine is working.
If you love Mexican food indiscriminately, you will have plenty from which to choose at Taco Ole, which has two other outlets in Maryland. Some portions are large, particularly the guacamole for $1.59, which had an interesting flavor. But the chilli con queso at $1.39 was more than large enough because it was too salty to eat. There is a certain sameness to the taste of the burritos, tacos and enchiladas because the filling is the same.
Old Western Chicken & Chips, better known as French fries in this country, offers flavorful but greasy food. The chips, with skins still on, are batter-dipped, as is the chicken, but soggy.
If that isn't enough from which to choose, wait a while. Top Dog is on the way, bearing hot dogs and soft pretzels. If you can't wait you can always get some vitamin pills at the natural food store and pop them for lunch.
Connecticut Connection is open Mon-Fri. from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sat. from 10 to 4.