When any restaurant can stay in business year after year with a steady clientele, it must be doing something right. It is usually the one thing that many restaurants are not - consistent. Too often, the word used to describe places that do not last is "uneven," whether it be the service or the food itself.

Loyal fans of Casa Melinda brag about the consistency of their favorite Davis County Mexican eatery. They know that the quality, service and atmosphere will be just like the last visit, and most people I have spoken to about Casa Melinda are "regulars."What attracts them is a cleanly appointed interior. Without the paintings on the walls and a some sparse south-of-the-border decor, Casa Melinda could easily become another genre of restaurant. A critical eye might consider it antiseptic.

Casa Melinda's service is attentive, almost to the point of our feeling a bit rushed. But we should have expected that on our recent Saturday night visit. And those waiting in the long line no doubt appreciated our less-than-relaxed meal.

The food itself is quite good, though somewhat bland. Each of the eight dishes we sampled was served promptly, and the entrees were steaming hot. But the sauce that topped the enchiladas was nondescript, hardly resembling the earthy dark red sauces of more traditional Mexican restaurants.

The chopped meat mixed with tomato sauce that filled the taco and beef enchilada was similar to a sloppy Joe. On the other hand, the chicken enchilada, despite the lifeless sauce, was filled with tasty and tender chicken. And the chile verde, made with sirloin tips rather than pork, had a flavorful sauce of green chiles and tomatoes. It was the spiciest of the dishes we sampled, though it could hardly compare to moderately seasoned dishes we have tried in other Mexican restaurants.

Some of the appetizers were a bit overpriced for the serving, though the complimentary corn chips were light and crunchy. The warm and barely seasoned salsa was more soupy than chunky. A full order of guacamole was $5, two small scoops of mashed avocado on a bed of shredded lettuce. The nachos were $3, one layer of corn chips on a plate covered with melted cheese.

The menu consists of 14 combination dinners with various configurations of the staples like tacos, enchiladas and burritos. Prices vary from around $3.60 for a relleno and rice and beans to around $6 for larger combination plates.

However, not all platters include rice and beans, a disappointment for some of us who ordered platters only to realize that they are not included. For the price, rice and beans should have been included. A la carte items include guacamole taco ($1.45), beef and bean tostado ($2.80), taco salads (beef or chicken) around $4.50, chimichangas ($4.75), and fajitas ($6.80). Sopaipillas come with any dinner orders for more than $3.

The menu highlights low-cholesterol dishes and mentions that no additives, preservatives or lard are used in the kitchen.

Casa Melinda has been successful because it offers its customers predictable Mexican-style fare with well-polished efficiency. However, it impressed us as ordinary.

Rating: * * 1/2

Casa Melinda, 3100 S. Highway 89, Bountiful. 292-1211. Open Tuesday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. Accepts check with guarantee card and major credit cards.