We bet that you’ve driven past Ocean Odyssey more than a few times and you never thought to stop and check it out. We were also guilty of this, but that all changed on a day trip to Cambridge this past week, and we are so happy that we did! Ocean Odyssey is more than a seafood restaurant located on Rt. 50 West in Cambridge, MD. What began as a business solely focused on providing Dorchester County natives with fresh crabmeat has blossomed into this beautiful story of family, local seafood and history of the Chesapeake Bay.
Bradye and Mary Blanch Todd, also known as Poppa and Nanny, began the Todd Seafood adventure in Crocheron, MD in 1947. Not familiar with this small town? Either were we until grandson, Travis Todd, gave us a quick education. Crocheron is a remote community located at the southern-most tip of Dorchester County near Hooper’s Island. This is where the Todd’s opened their first crab picking factory right on the water, convenient for the many crabbing boats that would deliver fresh blue crabs each day for picking. The crabbing business was booming through the latter part of the 20th century with a plentiful stock and eager customers.
The Todd’s had accomplished the most difficult part in starting a business from the ground up and they knew that it was time to bring their son into the business to learn the ropes. Better known as Pop, a second generation Todd has worked for many years to maintain the same integrity that his parents established. Sharing a funny story with us, Pop told us about a time when a food service vendor stopped by to sell crabmeat to them imported from overseas. Pop listened to what the salesperson had to say and then in not so many words simply thanked him for his time, but no and never. After a few years focused on the family business, Pop married and they had a family of their own. Grandchildren Travis and Laura now run the family business with help from their siblings, Toby and Deannie.
As soon as Toby Todd could earn his driver’s license, he would use the company truck during the summer months to carriage the employees from their homes to the crab factory. Pop commented that it was the perfect situation for the ladies who worked in the factory. They would already be awake helping their husband’s prepare for work so why not begin their day, too? Also, it was a convenient schedule so they could catch their soap operas on the TV in the afternoon.
Once the crab picking was complete by mid-afternoon, delivery drivers would haul the fresh crabmeat to vendors in Baltimore daily. Picture this: extremely large blocks of ice that are featured in the movie Frozen. Yes, that was the exact same ice that was used to preserve the fresh crabmeat during its journey to Baltimore on terrain that is not as smoothly paved and easily mapped as it is today.
Fast forward to 1986 when the Todd family procured the building that is now home to Ocean Odyssey. What used to be a pizza shack was converted completely in an effort to expand the crab picking facilities and to diversify operations. During construction, Pops decided to install a professional grade kitchen for Nanny so that when she wanted to cook for a large group, she had the ability to do so. And we are so thankful that he did because that very kitchen has brought us the Ocean Odyssey that we know and love today. Ocean Odyssey is open daily serving lunch and dinner with the addition of Sunday Brunch service from 10am – 3pm. A fun new feature to this iconic Cambridge business is the Outdoor Crab & Beer Garden serving gorgeous steamed blue crabs from our local waters paired with delicious beers on tap. The perfect location for a private event, the Outdoor Crab & Beer Garden is worth a scouting visit!
Today, Travis and Laura oversee the Ocean Odyssey and Todd Seafood operations, which now all take place at their location in Cambridge. The original crab factory in Crocheron is still up, but no longer in operation having picked their last crab in the early part of this century. Sharing the responsibility for Ocean Odyssey, the last 13 years have truly been a learning lesson for both Travis and Laura. “I actually went to school for wood science, so when I came back home to the family business, I had to learn how to run a restaurant. We’re very focused on consistency and tradition in our business model. The crabbing season ends in December, so we close each year January through March. We’re not able to serve local fresh-picked crabmeat during the winter months and we’re not about to change our commitment now.”, commented Travis.
We’re so happy to announce that Ocean Odyssey is getting ready to celebrate 30 years in business on Friday, August 12th. Next time that you are traveling on Rt. 50, please be sure to stop by and say hello to our friends Travis, Laura and Pop. While you’re there, sit down and stay for a while. Enjoy an Eastern Shore favorite from the extensive menu the way that Nanny had intended. Have a pint of craft beer that through labor intensive taste testing was selected just for you. Take in the sweet smell of Old Bay and the camaraderie that you will find at this secret gem located on Rt. 50 West. We can guarantee that you will be glad you did.