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The Mayan

What gives a restaurant staying power? Good service? Good prices? Good food?

A recent trip to The Mayan at Jordan Commons got me thinking.It is a strange mix at that place, and if you haven't been yet, perhaps I can shed some light on what to expect.

There is a wait. On a Monday night we arrived at 6 and stood in line for 90 minutes, though I was told by the staff it would be three hours.

When you do reach the door, you order your food (you don't pay yet) and a hostess leads you through the restaurant, where you get your first peak at this monstrous tropical creation everyone has been talking about. It's like an elaborate treehouse that overlooks a cliff with a waterfall. Sound effects and lighting set the tone for a jungle paradise.

Jungle paradise with "robot birds," that is.

There's a show about every half-hour. The scripts are hokey and the characters are regionally stereotyped to the hilt. The crowd really seems to like the divers and the dancing waiters.

But once you've seen it, you're ready to call it good.

I only say that because the food has to count for something. The prices are great. There isn't anything on the menu over $12.99, and most entrees are around $8. Large families can enjoy a meal without gouging the budget. For that reason, the Mayan is an asset to the valley.

Our service was great. Fairly attentive. Large parties at the tables around me seemed well attended to.

But back to the food. This is food for the masses -- folks, plain and simple. To feed a place this big you've got to get efficient, and the food is where it is most evident.

My first clue came when we were led past the prep kitchen. Some restaurants do this for a gourmet effect. In this case, it just looks like an assembly-line cafeteria kitchen. This was very unappetizing to me.

The food theme is Mexican. To rundown the basics, I'll start with the chips. They were fresh, as were the tortillas. Beans were pasty and tasted canned. Rice had an "off" flavor I couldn't quite put my finger on, but on the whole, not worth finishing.

I tried the beef combo, which had a beef soft taco, a cheese enchilada and a beef enchilada. Beef in the taco is ground, in the enchilada it's shredded. I liked my taco the best. There wasn't enough sauce on the enchilada, which was overstuffed with chewy shredded beef.

The beef-and-chicken strips in the combo fajita were better, making that plate a safer bet. That one comes with guacamole, which isn't very fresh and tastes too salty.

Kids meals are a good value. My son devoured his smothered burrito. For around $5, he got a drink, an entree and dessert. Not bad.

I decided to try the fruit plate with chocolate pot. The fruit is soggy and the chocolate sauce is strangely grainy and jelly-like. I should have had the sopaipillas, which friends have told me are a real treat.

So is all this worth the wait? Probably not. There are other places in town I'd prefer to get Mexican for about the same price. The total package is the deal here.

You have to go because the price is right and you like Miller's brand of entertainment. Otherwise, my ultimate qualifier for staying power -- the food -- just isn't there.

The Mayan

**1/2 (out of 5)

Location: 9375 S. State St., Sandy; 304-4600

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.;

Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Payment: major credit cards

Stephanie Tanner-Brown may be reached by e-mail at stephanie@desnews.com