Photography by Kathy Tran.

WHEN COMMUNITY MEMBERS ASK George Sanchez for a job at his restaurant, Goldrush Cafe, he points to his nephews and says, “If you marry one of these guys and become part of the family, you’re in.”

The Lakewood institution at 1913 Skillman St. has been in the Sanchez family for 40 years. There are some employees who aren’t related, but everyone is treated like family.

Sanchez and his brothers worked at beloved Italian restaurant Pietro’s before opening Swanee doughnut shop in 1980. When they decided to change the name, they set up a ladder in front of the marquee and severed the E’s with a saw.

The restaurant operated as Swan doughnuts for about six months before the family converted it into a breakfast and lunch eatery.

My dad loved going to Wyoming, Colorado, California,” Sanchez says. “We’d go by old mining towns, and we’d have to pull over. I remember him saying, ‘I’ve got a great name for the place.’ That was his passion — taking us on trips like that.”

Goldrush has remained one of the neighborhood’s favorite greasy spoons with breakfast staples like pancakes and bagel sandwiches, alongside lasagna, burgers and other home-cooked entrees. The menu incorporates a dash of Mexican flare with enchiladas, tamales and homemade salsa.

The most popular dish is the John Wayne, a layered meal with hash browns, a sunny-side-up egg and a choice of bacon, sausage or chorizo on a flour tortilla topped with salsa.

“Everybody tries it and comes back for it,” Sanchez says.

Over the years, Goldrush Cafe has built a loyal customer base that has supported them during the pandemic. When the restaurant struggled to get a Paycheck Protection Program loan, a regular who is a banker offered to take care of it. He processed the application in three days.

“We try to support local, and they’ve responded. Everyone has come back and helped us,” Sanchez says. “We’re still working twice as hard to make not even half of what we were before. A 40-year run has been pretty good, but we’re not going to let the pandemic kill us.”

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