Credit: © Kelly Bazely

For generations, people invented some of the world's best foods out of necessity. That’s how Poland’s most popular street food was first born in kitchens under the Iron Curtain. Chefs scraped together meager Communist-era rations for open-faced sandwiches called zapiekanki, or zappies—usually stale bread, mushrooms, onions and government cheese, sometimes with a douse of ketchup. Chef Marcin Mroz of Early in Brooklyn says he grew up on zappies. “It was like a dollar slice of pizza in New York.” But recently, the humble sandwich—which fell out of favor after the fall of Communism—received new life in its home country from places like Serwus in Warsaw, where zappies get topped with slow-cooked meats and vegetables, as well as house ketchup made fresh every day. Poland is a long way to go to find a good sandwich, so Mroz brought them to New York. The zappie at Early fits in perfectly with the Brooklyn hipsters always on the hunt for upscale street food, but it keeps just enough Polish tradition in it that the old-timers order them up as well. According to Mroz, “One person even teared up when he saw it on the menu.”

The bread: A fresh, hollowed-out baguette, toasted and crisp. No more stale bread—thank goodness the Iron Curtain lifted.

The filling: Mroz gives a nod to the original with caramelized onions and mushrooms sautéed with garlic, but then he tops it with melted Fontina and truffle oil.