Savor the flavors of Sandra’s Authentic Mexican Food

Amay and Sandra Espinoza in front of their food truck

Sandra Espinoza loves to cook, and she’s good at it, according to her daughter Amay. For nearly a decade, Sandra, along with her husband Jorge and their children, has been serving up tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare in rural west-central Illinois out of a yellow food truck.

“I’ve always loved her food,” Amay says. “[Growing up], I would always try to get my friends to come over and try her food, because it was just so good.” Today, Amay still loves sharing her mom’s Mexican dishes with others and helping with the food truck in any way that she can.

The food truck, named Sandra’s Authentic Mexican Food, initially started in a tent in 2015, serving food at area fairs, festivals and community events. In 2016, the Espinozas purchased a food truck, and Sandra decided to pursue the endeavor full time in 2019.

“My mom has always wanted to open a restaurant,” Amay says. “Having a food truck was a big step for us.”

The Espinoza family moved to Carthage 18 years ago, where they are consumer-members of Western Illinois Electrical Coop. They decided to put down their roots in the area.

“Family means a lot,” Amay says. “We’ve always been very close. A lot of our family lives pretty far away, so it’s mainly been us. Obviously, it can be hard to work with family sometimes … but we’ve learned how to work together as a team, and we’re still learning.”

Currently, patrons can find the food truck parked in Carthage and Macomb. Locations and hours are updated weekly on Sandra’s Authentic Mexican Food’s Facebook page. Because of the limited space on the food truck, the menu varies based on the day and location.

While there are other Mexican restaurants in the area, the food truck sets itself apart. “[The other restaurants] are more like Tex-Mex, which is really good, but we have something a little different — authentic homestyle Mexican food.”

For the most part, the menu has remained the same over the years, with the occasional new dish. “I don’t know why I always get so nervous when we introduce new foods,” Amay says. “I don’t know if people will know what it is or like it.” But, they have always proved to be crowd pleasers.

While the asada tacos (street style tacos with marinated steak, onion, cilantro and lime on a corn tortilla) have always been a bestseller, the tostadas and fried gorditas exceeded expectations when first introduced on the menu.

A tostada is a traditional handheld Mexican dish that consists of a flat, crunchy corn shell topped with a spread of beans, choice of meat, lettuce, avocado, cotija cheese and sour cream. The fried gorditas are made with corn masa dough that’s tinted red with Sandra’s secret spice mix — even Amay doesn’t know the recipe. The dough is formed into a thick, round shape and fried until crispy. It is then sliced open and filled with a ground beef and potato mixture, lettuce, cheese and sour cream.

Tamales are another favorite, and often sell out quickly. Made with masa dough and filled with a variety of ingredients, they are wrapped in a corn husk and cooked. While they sell chicken and pork tamales throughout the year, Sandra offers Christmas tamales during the holidays. They can be preordered and are available for pick-up a few days before the holiday. “People love them,” Amay says. “We offer a larger variety of fillings and flavors during Christmastime, so that gets people excited.”

Earlier this year, Sandra’s Authentic Mexican Food won third place in a small business pitch competition in Macomb. The money earned will help the Espinozas fulfill their dream to open a restaurant that’s not on wheels.

“We decided to go for it, because we’ve always wanted a brick and mortar,” Amay explains. “[It] puts the pressure on us to get it done and get moving. … We’re excited.” While a location hasn’t been selected yet, it will be within Macomb’s city limits.

The Espinozas look forward to the future. “I just want to say, ‘thank you,’ to everyone who continues to come and enjoy our food,” Amay says. And to those who haven’t yet had a chance to stop by the food truck, she adds, “I can’t wait for you to try it.”

Let’s EAT!

Sandra’s Authentic Mexican Food

Various locations in Carthage
and Macomb


Go to Facebook for weekly updates.

Cash or Venmo only