The first time I went to Looney's Pub in Canton, I liked its laid-back feel and worn-in decor.
That was more than two years ago, when Looney's seemed to expend as much effort courting sit-down diners as it did drinkers.
A lot has changed for the better at the Canton Square pub since then.
Last year, the owners decided to shift their focus more to the drinkers and made some much-needed renovations. They removed one of the two pool tables upstairs, built a new bar on each floor, and brought in high-topped tables and chairs to one of the two downstairs dining rooms.
Somehow, the folks at Looney's found space to add a few more flat-screen TVs to the walls on both floors, too. When it comes to TVs, their downstairs room near the front entrance is starting to rival the main room at ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor.
The Looney's staff subscribes to the wipe-don't-polish philosophy of bar-keeping, which gives the place its weathered look and comfortable atmosphere. They know a pub isn't a pub without a scuffed floor and some scratches and worn spots on the wooden bar.
When I went, the crowd inside was surprisingly large for a Wednesday night. A bunch of customers wore Baltimore Sports and Social Club T-shirts, which meant the neighborhood league had probably just finished a game and headed to the bar for a nightcap.
Looney's has a couple dozen beers on tap downstairs, which is a good selection. I ordered a Shiner Bock (possibly the best thing to come out of Texas), which cost $4.50, and then walked upstairs.
Yanking one of the two pool tables was the right decision. In the past, when Looney's would start to fill up at night, you'd have to keep looking over your shoulder to make sure you didn't accidentally poke somebody.
The crowd hasn't changed much at Looney's in the past couple of years, either. On Friday and Saturday nights (and even some weeknights), loud 20- and 30-somethings stuff the place.
About a week ago, I was sitting at the end of the upstairs bar finishing off the Shiner Bock when three women in matching outfits walked up next to me.
At first I was confused.
Then I realized they were Miller Lite reps gearing up for a night of beer giveaways.
My inner monologue: "Free beer? Score!"
They ordered a bunch of Miller Lite Brewers Collection six-packs, then all turned to me at once.
"Want to try a free beer?" one of them said.
"Why ... yes!" I replied.
It was a Miller Lite Amber and tasted all right. Nothing special. But free makes everything better.
Looney's calls itself "Canton's Greatest Bar," which is a bit of a stretch.
But now that it's able to cram more pre- and post-game partyers inside without losing its homey feel, Looney's is on its way to earning that title.
Looney's Pub is at 2900 O'Donnell St. Hours are 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily. Call 410-675-9235 or go to looneyspub.com.