Groups heading to Alabama can count on all manner of Southern comfort, including hospitality, cozy accommodations, meeting space that encourages productivity and, of course, some of the most delicious food and beverages in the country.

The menu here in the “Heart of Dixie” features everything from Gulf-caught crab cakes and oysters to decadent desserts and an impressive wine list.

Following are some great ideas for groups interested in adding a culinary experience to the meeting itinerary.

Seafood Straight From the Gulf Coast in Alabama

From “flip-flop fine dining” to casual open-air restaurants, the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach specialize in seafood straight from the Gulf of Mexico and land fare made with locally sourced ingredients.

According to Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, several area restaurateurs own multiple eateries, making it possible for groups to arrange dine-arounds at, among others, the Hangout, Picnic Beach, Fisher’s Upstairs and Fisher’s Dockside, Playa, and BuzzCatz Coffee & Sweets.

Several high-end restaurants, she added, offer wine-pairing dinners that can be arranged for groups.

FoodBar mixologist, Birmingham
FoodBar Mixologist, Birmingham

“Popular full-service convention property, Perdido Beach Resort, is home to Voyagers, a white tablecloth fine-dining experience with breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico,” Gendler said.

There are group-friendly restaurants in Mobile, too, including Dauphin’s, which is perched atop downtown’s historic Trustmark Building and features 365-degree views of the city.  

Bienville Bites Food Tour facilitates an exploration of Mobile that includes tasty bites at Wintzell’s Oyster House and Three Georges Candy & The Nuthouse.  

“You’ll do this while learning about our historic, charming city,” according to Tara Zieman, marketing and communications manager for Visit Mobile. “It’s perfect for groups.”  

Alabama's River Heritage Region Hosts Farm-to-Table Draws

Auburn-Opelika is quickly becoming a food lover’s paradise, according to Cat Bobo, communications specialist for the Auburn-Opelika Tourism Bureau.

“With a heavy agricultural influence, thanks to Auburn University, the area excels in locally grown, farm-to-table edible delicacies unlike anything else in the Southeast,” she said.

Amsterdam Cafe, which offers private dining space featuring exposed brick walls lined with art, is a classic choice that’s ideal for large groups. And The Depot, an American seafood brasserie, serves Southern-inspired dishes and handcrafted cocktails in a charming and elegant space.

John Emerald Distilling Co., offers group tours and tastings of its whiskey, gin, vodka and rum.

Cooking with C.C. fridlin, Huntsville
Cooking With C.C. Fridlin, Huntsville

“We had a group of 60 networking professionals attend a happy-hour function there,” Bobo said. “Throughout the evening, smaller groups were taken in the back for tours at their convenience. It’s a very cool experience to taste and see craft liquor being made.”

Alabama's Metro Region Offers Cooking Education

Boozy pursuits are available to groups meeting in Birmingham as well, including cocktails at FoodBar, a mixology class at Tavern On 1st, one of the city’s newest pubs that specializes in craft cocktails, and a sightseeing/brewery tour with Birmingham Pedal Tours.

According to Vickie S. Ashford, director of travel media for the Greater Birmingham CVB, the pedal-powered trolleys offer a fun eco-friendly way for groups to tour the Magic City and pop into several local pubs.

Cooking classes can also be arranged during a meeting in Birmingham.

Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook, Autograph Collection, offers classes during which participants learn knife skills, how to prepare pasta and seafood, and how to plate desserts, as well as wine-blending classes including wine-tasting and creating a custom bottle.

Fishers at orange beach, Gulf Shores
Fishers at Orange Beach, Gulf Shores

Jefferson State Community College Culinary & Hospitality Institute offers cooking classes taught by Chef Joseph Mitchell.  

“Chef Mitchell, along with advanced students, prepare a delicious lunch for the group,” Ashford said. “Next, the group is challenged to prepare their very own desserts.”

In Tuscaloosa, there are two standout opportunities for groups interested in culinary creations.

“The University of Alabama’s ‘Bama Dining’ hosts an incredible Crimson Kitchen series that is a huge hit with groups,” said Barrett Elder, marketing and communications manager for Visit Tuscaloosa. “Then head to Alabama’s only Peterbrooke Chocolatier and create your own candy bar exactly the way you’ve always wanted it.”

Noteworthy eateries with private event space in Tuscaloosa include the newly opened Half Shell Oyster House, known for local Gulf oysters and Gulf Coast seafood with a New Orleans flair, as well as 301 Bistro, Bar and Beer Garden, transformed from Tuscaloosa’s old train station and now serving American food and drinks.

Alabama's Mountain Region Allows for Group Menu Exploration

Located in northernmost Alabama are Huntsville and Florence, which both have several culinary options awaiting groups.

In Huntsville, according to Kristen Pepper, marketing manager for the Huntsville/Madison County CVB, small groups can book a Cooking with C.C. class with local chef and culinary instructor, C.C. Fridlin.

A Dine & Dash trolley tour that escorts groups to four popular local restaurants is also a hit here.
Among downtown Huntsville’s favorite group-friendly places for a bite is Church Street Purveyor, which pairs its dishes with wine or bourbon, and

Domaine South, a newly renovated wine bar that serves an assortment of charcuterie, cheese and bread.
Group-friendly restaurants in downtown Florence include Big Bad Breakfast, which just opened this year with a separate area for groups as well as a room with bowling, darts, billiards and a bar, and Odette Alabama, a restaurant/bar.

“The bartender at Odette Alabama is a certified mixologist and would be great doing demonstrations and talking about how he came up with drinks,” said Suzie Shoemaker, manager, sport/event sales for Florence/Lauderdale Tourism.

At Alabama Chanin, which is where Natalie Chanin, a women’s clothier, has her workshop, groups can visit The Factory, a cafe with a menu including sandwiches, sides and sweets. 

Alabama CVB Contact Information

Auburn & Opelika Tourism Bureau
334.887.8747

Florence/Lauderdale Tourism
256.740.4141

Greater Birmingham CVB 
205.458.8000

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
251.974.1510

Huntsville/Madison County CVB
256.551.2230

Montgomery Area COC/CVB
334.261.1100

Visit Tuscaloosa 
205.391.9200

Visit Mobile
251.208.2000

Click over to Page 2 for Alabama's brewery lineup and the latest and greatest in hotels.