Native Hilton Head islander and chef David Vincent Young started cooking when he was 6, taught by his great-grandmother. "She wanted to make sure I could take care of myself," said Young, whose mother died when he was a baby.
Young's family has been on Hilton Head Island for 185 years, and his new restaurant, Burnin' Down South, features eclectic Lowcountry cuisine reflecting that history.
"We raised our own chickens and hogs, and every family had a huge garden to grow sweet potatoes, corn, tomatoes, okra," said Young. "We had fruit trees and grew berries or found them in the woods. We'd pick a cucumber, add salt and vinegar, and that was a snack. It was like an all-natural way of living," he said. "You grew it, caught it, raised it and ate it."
Chef David's recipes include his Grandma's Shrimp Gumbo, an authentic, savory blend with plenty of plump shrimp, which you can sample at lunch along with a half Po-Boy Sandwich of Buffalo or BBQ Shrimp, Oyster, Catfish or Roasted Vegetable for $9.50.
His signature sweet potato cornbread accompanies most lunch and dinner entrees and pairs perfectly with house specialties.
Young's menu philosophy is to get the freshest ingredients he can find and try to keep it regional. His fresh catch might be flounder, red snapper or mahi mahi, and can be fried, blackened or grilled. The Grilled Vegetable and Fish Salad, $14.50, includes organic mixed greens and a bounty of lightly seasoned and grilled mushrooms, onions, squash, asparagus, broccoli, snap peas, tomatoes and a few sliced ripe strawberries.
"Our vegetarian menu is the most extensive in the area," said Young, "and we can accommodate any dietary restrictions or needs." The Roasted Portobello Mushroom, $11.50, is topped with avocado, tomato and mango chutney, and garnished with mixed baby greens, lentil salad and fruit. In the Ethiopian Lentil Salad, $10.50, freshly cooked lentils mix with fresh sweet peppers, celery, carrots, herbs and spices over Israeli couscous.
For dessert, in addition to homemade cheesecake and pies, the chef's signature Island Parfait, $5.95, is made with fresh pineapple, mango, kiwi, strawberries and seasonal berries elegantly layered with whipped coconut milk and served in a tall dessert glass.
Early Bird is served from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m. at 10 percent off menu prices. Open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Burnin' Down South serves Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
By the start of football season, the restaurant should have a full liquor license, and Young will add tables outside and Sunday specials such as crab legs and Lowcountry Boil. For information or reservations, call 843-705-2453. The restaurant is located in Bluffton's Okatie Village, just outside Sun City.
Freelance writer Pam Gallagher was a copy editor at USA Today and a staff writer and fashion editor for the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press.