Above: The smoked fish dip and the skate plate from Whiskey Kitchen in Raleigh, North Carolina

Surrounded by farmland and steeped in Southern culinary traditions, the area encompassing the cities of Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill would be a great place to eat, even without the industries that take it over the top. But theNorth CarolinaResearch Triangle, as it’s known, is also home to three major universities — Duke, University of North Carolina and North Carolina State — and it’s a booming hot spot for medical and tech companies. The region’s 21st-century economy gives residents a hunger for the new that supports sophisticated restaurants by nationally known and up-and-coming chefs alike. Here are some top-notch places to try.

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Above: The smoked fish dip and the skate plate from Whiskey Kitchen in Raleigh, North Carolina