Archives for 2009

Going On Vacation

Thanks to our readers, clients, and supporters for a great year.  Happy Holidays!

DAB's Professional Endorsements For 2010

DAB's Professional Endorsements For 2010

When you’re looking for assistance, especially a professional service, it’s helpful to have testimony. My business is driven by referrals.  If I do a good job for a client, that client shares their experience with their friends and colleagues, and eventually I get a phone call that goes something like this: “Hey!  Got your info from So-And-So and she said you’re the guy to speak with about buying a condo in downtown Austin.”

Nice!  This is how it should work.

Below I wanted to acknowledge a few people/organizations that have assisted me, and many of my clients, over the past couple of years.  These are not sponsors, nor did they ask to be written about.  If they stopped working with me, it wouldn’t change my positive experience when it was needed.  I look for integrity in everyone I work with and the people below will tell you if they can’t help you, and whenever possible they will direct you to someone that can. I like that, and my clients do to.  So here goes.

1) Mortgage lending: Brandon Sparks. Brandon has a nickname in my office: “The Fixer”.  When Big Banc Corp isn’t playing nice, Brandon can find a way to get the deal done.  One of my most challenging deals occurred this year.  It lasted from April to November.  Brandon stuck with my client when many brokers would have long ago stopped responding to emails and phone calls.  This wasn’t an isolated case either.  Many of my colleagues keep Brandon on speed dial when a client needs financing.  In fact, Brandon handled Amber’s and my purchase at The Shore Condos – a transaction that had so many moving parts that I’m still amazed we got it done.

Brandon Sparks
Barton Creek Lending Group
brandon [@]
(512) 796-4569

2) Credit Re-Scoring: Eddie Johansson. OK, this is embarrassing for me, but I’m so confident this info can help others I’m willing to divulge some personal details.  Two years ago, when purchasing our first home, my FICO score was under 600. Why? Foolish decisions right out of college, a handful of start-up endeavors, AND incorrect information on my credit report.  If you’re a regular DAB reader you know that I’m a skeptic, so it’s important to note that before this experience, I considered the entire credit repair industry as nothing more than snake oil .  I only called Eddie because he was recommended by a colleague (hey, that’s what this post is about!) that I have a lot of respect for.  To get started, I would need to pay $100 for an hour of Eddie’s time when he would pull my credit report and review it with me by phone.  That immediately set off my internal “this is a scam” alert.  But, I had no other option other than to trust in the referral. I paid the $100, and Eddie’s assistant pulled my credit report and placed me on Eddie’s calendar for a one-hour phone call.

That $100 one-hour phone call turned out to be an education.  Eddie came out guns blazing scrutinizing every account on my report.  He explained the nuances of the FICO score.  He explained how large dings in the distant past are often less important than small dings in the recent past.  He explained his company’s process and he set my expectations.  Credit repair requires incredible organization and diligence.  Debt collectors can be severely penalized for inaccurate information – something that would reappear on my credit file in recent months.  I needed a 680 to obtain the mortgage – a required improvement of almost 90 points.  Eddie got me there, and today because of Eddie’s assistance, my FICO score is over 750 and we’re still monitoring and managing it for improvements.

I can’t say that Eddie’s services are inexpensive, but his service was worth every penny.  Increasingly I view this as one of the best investments I’ve ever made.

Eddie Johansson
Credit Security Group
eddie [@]
(972) 820-0342

3) Attorneys: Stanfield, Berry, and Hiserodt, PLLC. On a couple of occasions this year, I needed legal advice.  At this stage in my life I’m not ready to keep an attorney on permanent retainer.  I also am reluctant to engage a large firm to handle contractual/transactional issues.

On one occasion, I needed to wind down a partnership.  They helped me think through some exit-strategy issues.  They were responsive and worked quickly. We had all the docs needed within a few days.

These guys focus on small to medium sized businesses, and they assist entrepreneurs as they grow their business.  They can handle a variety of legal issues – from basic business organization advice to licensing and intellectual property issues.  They are located in downtown Austin, offer reasonable rates, and won’t nickle-and-dime you.  My experience with them was personalized and client-friendly.

Stanfield Berry & Hiserodt, PLLC
300 West Avenue
Suite 1316
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 482-0040

4) Personal Fitness Trainer: William Wagner. Amber has mentioned Will before in one of her previous posts, but I think he’s worth mentioning again, particularly with the new year and all the corresponding fitness related resolutions it brings.  He’s unique because he’s not affiliated with a gym. If you are a downtown condo dweller with an on-site gym, he’s perfect, because he’ll meet you at your home for a reasonable rate (as low as $35.00 for a one-on-one session – and if you work out with a partner, as low as $22.50/per person per session – WOW!) and give you the personal attention needed to make your work-out effective.  All right in your building – in the comfort of your own home. If you don’t have a gym in your building, he also has a workout facility at his home, and can meet you almost anywhere (although places like 24-hour fitness and others that have personal trainers on staff won’t allow your own personal trainer to work with you in their facility).

I know for both Amber and I, accountability is one of our main obstacles to getting to the gym.  Boredom while working out is another.  Will takes care of both of these obstacles – 1) We’re much more likely to show up for a session when we’re paying per session, and 2) Will’s a great conversationalist if you are one of those people that like to talk during a work-out (Amber, much to my chagrin, is one of those people).

I know that several DAB readers use Will, too – Will, appropriately enough, gets most of his clients through word-of-mouth (referrals!).

Will Wagner Personal Training
(512) 909-5350

[Disclaimer: Every situation is different and you should do your own research.  These are based on my positive personal experiences and the reputation of each person/group.]

G’Raj Mahal Cafe (Not Garaj Mahal) – **MENU**, HOURS, and REVIEW: Indian Restaurant Now Open in Downtown Austin

G’Raj Mahal Cafe (Not Garaj Mahal) – **MENU**, HOURS, and REVIEW: Indian Restaurant Now Open in Downtown Austin

9/25/2012: Breaking news….G’raj Mahal announces through their Facebook page that they are expanding! 2nd Location will be at 73 Rainey Street, and it looks like they will have live music. Check out our story on the details of G’raj Mahal’s expansion here.

7/3/2012: Updated menu below! Large groups should note that G’raj Mahal now only takes a maximum of 3 credit cards per order – no matter how many people are in the group.  I was told by a server that this policy has been around for years, but I’ve been with several large groups there and June 2012 was the first time this happened, so I think it’s actually relatively new. This policy seems particularly odd to me personally because the minimum credit card order there is $10 (last time I checked, unless they’ve changed that, too), so logic would tell me so long as the total bill for each card is larger than $10, there shouldn’t really be an issue from a fees perspective.  I guess maybe it has to do with the servers not wanting to take the time to run multiple cards?  I’ve asked Sidney Roberts, the owner – but she has yet to give me a response or reason on the issue….will keep you updated!

Incidentally, it’s also worth noting that the gratuity for parties of 5 or more is now 20% (it used to 18%, per their older menu).

7/2/2010: G’Raj Mahal is currently open from 5pm-12am on Weekdays, 5pm-3am Fri-Sat.  CLOSED Mondays. Also looks like all delivery will now be going through Longhorn Delivery (contact info on menu). G’Raj Mahal is BYOB!!!

Sidney, the owner also wanted me to let everyone know that the lamb is halal, blessed, and grassfed – for those following strict diets.


If somebody asked me what I thought about eating Indian food made in a truck, my *go-to* response would be  – “less good choice.”  At least, that was until I tried G’Raj Mahal Cafe (no website yet, but you can find them on Facebook), located at 91 Red River Street in Downtown Austin.  Ummmmm…super yummy!

This gem opened a couple of weeks ago, and when I had the opportunity to try it out the other day, I was very pleasantly surprised.  I had the Vegetable Goan Coconut Currie with the Classic Vegetable Samosa, which was all washed down with a Mexican Coke:

Looking at the menu, I initially thought the pricing seemed way super high.  After all, this is food made from a trailer.  However, the food was made to order, tasted fresh and high-quality, and the portions were generous. While I still think it’s a bit on the pricey side, I also believe that it’s worth it.

**UPDATE 12/14/2009: The owner (Sidney aka Ms. GM) just contacted me to tell me: “FYI…We reduced our prices this week slightly for the entrees as much as we could. However, we use such high grade ingredients, we are somewhat restricted to obey our food costs. We will soon have a late night menu with $5-8 items like naan wraps, lamb burgers, Indian “taco” salad, and spicy goan sausages.” Once I’ve received the updated menu, I will post it.

G’Raj Mahal Cafe does table service and take-out.  The table service I experienced was friendly (even deferential) and the overall vibe was good.  I would note that there is no indoor seating, but the outdoor seating is covered, and what I would describe as breezy, surrounded by peacefully flowing pieces of gauzy white fabric.  Here’s a shot of the typical table:

Overall, I think it’s a good, unique addition to the downtown Austin restaurant landscape, gives the east side of Congress a quality casual dining option, and is a small business that I will support.  It’s just a few steps from our residence at The Shore Condos.  My only real complaint so far is that it’s only open for dinner (from 5pm-3am everyday).  I think a Saturday/Sunday lunch (business permitting) would be awesome.

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Downtown Austin Open Houses


Open houses in downtown Austin for Sunday, December 13th

The great thing about downtown Austin open houses is that you can generally walk from building to building.  If you’re into adaptive reuses of older buildings, checkout DAB’s list of downtown Austin lofts.  Looking for downtown Austin FHA approved condos? We’ve got the info.

This weekend you can browse at your own pace at the Austin City Lofts, Milago (btw, have you visited Rainey Street recently?), Spring, and the Austonian sales center.  While you’re here, checkout DAB’s gift suggestions found on 2nd Street.

1) 54 Rainey St Penthouse #2, 2bd, 2.5ba, $995,000, 1-3pm [Urbanspace] map
2) 800 W 5th St, #201, 2bd, 2ba, $649,900, 1-3pm [Urbanspace] map
3) 300 Bowie St, Spring sales center, model units, 1-5pm map website
4) 200 Congress Ave, Austonian sales center located at 300 W 6th, 12-5pm map website

Don’t see the properties you’re interested in? Ask a Realtor who lives and works in downtown Austin.